Plastics' fitness for use at low temperature

Most engineering plastics are generally well suited to temperatures below zero, although the extent to which this is the case depends mainly on the material and the specific application conditions.

Due to the specific nature of thermoplastics, it is difficult to determine a low-temperature threshold that can be clearly defined using standard test methodology. Conversely, however, when temperature decreases, there is no requisite permanent loss of properties due to exposure to low temperatures. Even though general increases in stiffness and decreases in impact strength can be observed, these characteristics will generally return to “normal” when the material is heated up again.

In the case of partially crystalline and amorphous thermoplastics, an operating temperature in the sub-zero range cannot be not precisely defined. This is primarily dependent on the application requirements and can therefore only be determined within the framework of actual tests.

However, thanks to years of experience with the use of polymers, an approximate estimate of the low range application temperature for all materials noted in the table for Ensinger materials is possible.

The success of plastics in these negative operating temperatures is significantly influenced by the type of mechanical stress involved in the application: shock or vibration can lead to premature component failure.

Materials modified with reinforcing fibers typically tend to be more brittle. Modifications with fillers could therefore be viewed more critically at low temperatures. Only a few polymers can be used successfully at cryogenic temperatures down to -200 °C and below. These true low temperature polymers include:

TECASINT 4011 natural
Service temperature plastics

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