Hybrid polymers

Definition of hybrid polymers:
Hybrid polymers are polymers that are combined with at least one other type of
molecule or polymer. They are commonly found in applications such as car tires.

What is a hybrid polymer?

A hybrid polymer is a material containing two or more different types of molecules. At least one of these will be a polymer. Hybrid polymers can be a composite of two different polymers. They typically involve blending a polymer with inorganic materials (such as metal or ceramics) or other organic materials.

A well-known example is the rubber used for car tires. This is made from isoprene polymers combined with other organic compounds, such as natural rubber.

Why are hybrid polymers important?

Hybrid polymers allow manufacturers to create new materials that combine the performance characteristics of different substances. This opens the door to a wide range of applications across different sectors, from paints to medicines to semiconductors. This variety of important applications makes hybrid polymers a priority research area.

How are hybrid polymers made?

There are two main methods for producing hybrid polymers. The most common involves “building blocks” – combining molecules that keep their integrity when incorporated into an existing compound. Typically, the properties of each building block survive the formation. This means their useful qualities (such as electrical conduction or magnetism) remain present in the hybrid material. Building blocks may also be nanosized. These tiny particles can be used to form more complex structures with precisely defined properties.

The second method is “in situ formation”, in which chemists create a reaction between different molecules to produce a new material. Polymers produced by this method typically have properties that differ from their original "ingredients". This is what makes them different from materials formed using the building blocks method. Reaction conditions during in situ formation must be carefully controlled to ensure optimal results.

What are the challenges with hybrid polymers?

The ideal hybrid polymer is simple to make and offers properties greater than the sum of its parts. Scientific research mainly focuses on preserving the properties of each component more fully and finding quicker and cheaper production methods.

Creating lower-impact hybrid polymers is also important. Researchers are currently working on hybrid polymers that are more biodegradable than conventional plastics. They are also looking into producing the constituent molecules from renewable sources. All these research areas share the same challenge: reducing costs to the point where hybrid polymers can become more widely available.

What does the future hold for hybrid polymers?

Strong growth is predicted in the synthetic polymer market over the next decade. It is predicted to increase by 5.6% to USD 39.4 billion by 2029. Hybrid polymers are expected to play a large role in this. New materials, such as Stahl’s 4th generation hybrid polyurethane polymers, offer far greater flexibility and customization possibilities than previous generations. In the coming years we can expect to see more creative and advanced techniques that yield even better results.

Want to learn more about polymers?

Stahl’s 4th generation hybrid polymers are ideally suited for high-performance applications – find out more.