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High-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polyethylene high-density (PEHD) is a polyethylene thermoplastic made from petroleum. Known for its large strength to density ratio, HDPE is commonly used in the production of plastic bottles, corrosion-resistant piping, geomembranes, and plastic lumber. HDPE is commonly recycled, and has the number "2" as its recycling symbol.
In 2007, the global HDPE market reached a volume of more than 30 million tons.
HDPE is known for its large strength to density ratio. The density of high-density polyethylene can range from 0.93 to 0.97 g/cm3. Although the density of HDPE is only marginally higher than that of low-density polyethylene, HDPE has little branching, giving it stronger intermolecular forces and tensile strength than LDPE. The difference in strength exceeds the difference in density, giving HDPE a higher specific strength. It is also harder and more opaque and can withstand somewhat higher temperatures (120 °C/ 248 °F for short periods, 110 °C /230 °F continuously). High-density polyethylene, unlike polypropylene, cannot withstand normally required autoclaving conditions. The lack of branching is ensured by an appropriate choice of catalyst (e.g., Ziegler-Natta catalysts) and reaction conditions.
HDPE is resistant to many different solvents and has a wide variety of applications, including:
HDPE is also used for cell liners in subtitle D sanitary landfills, wherein large sheets of HDPE are either extrusion or wedge welded to form a homogeneous chemical-resistant barrier, with the intention of preventing the pollution of soil and groundwater by the liquid constituents of solid waste.
HDPE is preferred by the pyrotechnics trade for mortars over steel or PVC tubes, being more durable and safer. HDPE tends to rip or tear in a malfunction instead of shattering and becoming shrapnel like the other materials.
Milk jugs and other hollow goods manufactured through blow molding are the most important application area for HDPE – More than 8 million tons, or nearly one third of worldwide production, was applied here. In addition to being recycled using conventional processes, HDPE can also be processed by recyclebots into filament for 3-D printers via distributed recycling.
Above all, China, where beverage bottles made from HDPE were first imported in 2005, is a growing market for rigid HDPE packaging, as a result of its improving standard of living. In India and other highly populated, emerging nations, infrastructure expansion includes the deployment of pipes and cable insulation made from HDPE. The material has benefited from discussions about possible health and environmental problems caused by PVC and Polycarbonate associated Bisphenol A, as well as its advantages over glass, metal and cardboard.