Transparent Plastics

This data can be used with GRANTA MI or CES Polymer Selector to support rational selection, enterprise material strategy, and positioning (technical and economic) of these materials.

This page provides more detailed information on the MaterialUniverse data for transparent plastics. For general information on MaterialUniverse, see here 

Why would you be interested?

If you design products and parts with transparent or clear plastics for:

  • Functional reasons: combining transparency or optics with mechanical function
  • Medical products—transparency is especially valued in medicine where the ability to make things visible to doctors, nurses, and patients is at a premium
  • Aesthetic effect—think Apple’s classic ‘iMac G3’ design
  • Glass substitution: where these plastics offer a lighter, tougher alternative to glass.
Plastic bottle Automobile tail lights CD case

The problem

Transparency carries compromise and comes at a cost. CD jewel cases, well known for cracking easily, are made from crystal clear polystyrene (PS), which is cheap, but brittle. Clear plastics are usually more prone to 'environmental stress cracking' (ESC).  ESC is cracking due to the simultaneous effect of stress and a fluid.  Polycarbonate is optically clear, strong, and very tough—apparently ideal for riot shields, until rioters discovered that baking soda caused them to crack. Failure from ESC is often unexpected.

Compared to opaque plastics, transparent materials offer a more limited range of strength, stiffness, durability, electrical, and thermal properties.  To work around these limitations, material suppliers have developed a broad range of specialized clear plastics, each with advantages and disadvantages for specific design challenges. There are now many thousands of commercially available transparent grades belonging to over 40 polymer types.

This makes selection of the optimal clear material both more rewarding and more complicated.  How does a designer identify the most cost effective two or three clear plastics for their design exhaustively, reproducibly, auditably, and quickly? 

The Granta solution

This is where Granta helps—you can use our property data on transparent plastics along with the analysis tools of CES Polymer Selector or GRANTA MI to make better design and business decisions about these materials, and to do so in a reliable, repeatable, and auditable manner.

The data consists of around 120 transparent material records presenting comparable properties for thousands of commercially available transparent grades.  The table summarizes the categories and types of plastic. 

Polystyrene (PS)
High-impact polystyrene (PS-HI)
Styrene butadiene plastic (SB)
Styrene acrylonitrile copolymer (SAN)
Transparent ABS and methacrylate ABS (MABS)
Styrene maleic anhydride (SMA)
Styrenic block copolymer elastomers (SBS, SEBS, SIS)
Polyphenylene oxide / polystyrene blends (PPO+PS, Noryl)
Poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA)
Styrene methyl methacrylates (SMMA) with toughening
PMMA+PC blend
Clarified (microcrystalline, nucleated) polypropylene (PP)
Polymethylpentane (PMP)
Cyclic olefin (co)polymer (COC – Topas, COP)
Polyolefin elastomer/plastomer (POE/POP)
PA - semi-aromatic, amorphous
PA - cycloaliphatic, amorphous
PA - newer ‘microcrystalline’ (cycloaliphatic)
Polyether block amide (PEBA)
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
Polyethylene naphthalate (PEN)
Polyester copolymers (PETg, PCTa, PCTg)
Thermoplastic ether-ester copolymer elastomer (TPC-ET, Ecdel)
Standard polycarbonate (PC)
High-heat polycarbonate (PC-HT)
Polycarbonate-polyester amorphous blends (PC+polyester)
Polyphthalate carbonate (PPC)
Acrylate copolymer
Ethylene acrylates (EMA, EEA, EBA)
Ionomer (sodium & zinc types)
Acrylonitrile copolymer (Barex)
Cellulose acetate, butyrate, propionate (CA, CAB, CAP)
Cellulose nitrate (CN)
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP)
Polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE)
Polyimide, amorphous (PI)
Polyetherimide (PEI)
Polysulfone (PSU)
Polyether sulfone (PES)
Polyphenyl sulfone (PPSU)
Polyurethane thermoplastics (PUR, TPU)
Self-reinforced polyphenylene (SRP)
Poly lactic acid (PLA)

All standard MaterialUniverse attributes are available for every material:

  • cost
  • physical
  • mechanical
  • thermal
  • electrical
  • optical
  • durability
  • chemical 

Specific properties provided in the data module that are of particular relevance for transparent materials selection include:

  • impact strength—toughness (23 and –30 C)
  • biocompatibility (for medical or food contact applications)
  • refractive index
  • environmental stress crack index
  • resistance to 190 different chemical environments