Styrene is a building-block chemical used in the manufacture of many products that have improved the quality of everyday life. Worldwide, about 60% of all styrene becomes polystyrene — a plastic which comes in several forms, including solid, foam, and film.
A Multitude of Uses
Styrene is essential in the creation of many consumer and industrial products that are used every day. A few of the most familiar uses of styrene include:
- Solid polystyrene: used in packaging, rigid foodservice containers, medical and optical devices, electronics, toys, kitchen appliances, household items, and many other products.
- Polystyrene foam: used in lightweight protective packaging, foodservice containers, building components, insulation, and more.
- Composite products, also known as fiber-reinforced polymer composites (FRP): used in automobile components, military and commercial aircraft, boats, wind turbine parts, corrosion-resistant pipes and tanks, bathroom fixtures, sporting goods, and many other applications.
- Polystyrene film: used in a variety of food packaging, laminating, and printing applications.
Other styrene-based materials include:
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic: used in refrigerator liners, medical devices, auto parts, small household appliances, toys, and luggage.
- Styrene Acrylonitrile (SAN) plastic: used for food containers, tableware, bathroom fittings, and optical fibers.
- Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR), which reduces dependence on natural rubbers and provides improved performance in applications such as vehicle tires (leading to improved fuel efficiency), conveyor belts, gaskets, and seals.
- Styrene Butadiene Latex (SBL): used in many paper coatings and in more than 90% of the broadloom carpeting made in the United States to attach carpet fibers to a backing material.
Safety, Environmental, and Performance Benefits
Styrene is widely used because it enables a multitude of products to deliver many cost-effective benefits that are highly valued by consumers. Styrene-based products cushion bicycle helmets, strengthen military armor, and create wind power turbines. Styrene-based products contribute to the potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by providing energy-efficient insulation in building and construction and increased fuel efficiency through the strengthening and weight-reduction of automobile components. They also enable manufacturing high-performance and cost-effective recreational products such as boats and other watercraft, and they reduce dependence on costly natural resources, such as tropical hardwoods used in boats and marble and granite used in homes and buildings.
Did you know?
Styrene is an essential component of ballistic panels for military vehicles, barracks, and common facilities, helping to keep our troops safe overseas.