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EPOXY is the cured end product of epoxy resins, as well as a colloquial name for the epoxide functional group. Epoxy resins, also known as polyepoxides are a class of reactive prepolymers and polymers which contain epoxide groups. Epoxy resins may be reacted (cross-linked) either with themselves through catalytic homopolymerisation, or with a wide range of co-reactants including polyfunctional amines, acids (and acid anhydrides), phenols, alcohols, and thiols. These co-reactants are often referred to as hardeners or curatives, and the cross-linking reaction is commonly referred to as curing. Reaction of polyepoxides with themselves or with polyfunctional hardeners forms a thermosetting polymer, often with strong mechanical properties as well as high temperature and chemical resistance. Epoxy has a wide range of applications, including metal coatings, use in electronics / electrical components, high tension electrical insulators, fiber-reinforced plastic materials, and structural adhesives. Epoxy resin is employed to bind gutta percha in some root canal procedures.
The first commercial attempts to prepare resins from epichlorohydrin were made in 1927 in the United States. Credit for the first synthesis of bisphenol-A-based epoxy resins is shared by Dr. Pierre Castan of Switzerland and Dr. S.O. Greenlee of the United States in 1936. Dr. Castan’s work was licensed by Ciba, Ltd. of Switzerland, which went on to become one of the three major epoxy resin producers worldwide. Ciba’s epoxy business was spun off and later sold in the late 1990s and is now the Advanced Materials business unit of Huntsman Corporation of the United States. Dr. Greenlee’s work was for the firm of Devoe-Reynolds of the United States. Devoe-Reynolds, which was active in the early days of the epoxy resin industry, was sold to Shell Chemical (now Momentive Specialty Chemicals, formerly Hexion, Resolution Polymers and others).Epoxy resin chemistry
Epoxy resins are low molecular weight pre-polymers or higher molecular weight polymers which normally contain at least two epoxide groups. The epoxide group is also sometimes referred to as a glycidyl or oxirane group.
A wide range of epoxy resins are produced industrially. The raw materials for epoxy resin production are today largely petroleum derived, although some plant derived sources are now becoming commercially available (e.g. plant derived glycerol used to make epichlorohydrin).
Epoxy resins are polymeric or semi-polymeric materials, and as such rarely exist as pure substances, since variable chain length results from the polymerisation reaction used to produce them. High purity grades can be produced for certain applications, e.g. using a distillation purification process. One downside of high purity liquid grades is their tendency to form crystalline solids due to their highly regular structure, which require melting to enable processing.
An important criterion for epoxy resins is the epoxide content. This is commonly expressed as the epoxide number, which is the number of epoxide equivalents in 1 kg of resin (Eq./kg), or as the equivalent weight, which is the weight in grams of resin containing 1 mole equivalent of epoxide (g/mol). One measure may be simply converted to another:
Equivalent weight (g/mol) = 1000 / epoxide number (Eq./kg)
The equivalent weight or epoxide number is used to calculate the amount of co-reactant (hardener) to use when curing epoxy resins. Epoxies are typically cured with stoichiometric or near-stoichiometric quantities of curative to achieve maximum physical properties.
As with other classes of thermoset polymer materials, blending different grades of epoxy resin, as well as use of additives, plasticizers or fillers is common to achieve the desired processing and/or final properties, or to reduce cost. Use of blending, additives, and fillers is often referred to as formulating.