Poly(methyl methacrylate)

Last updated
Poly(methyl methacrylate)
PMMA repeating unit.svg
IUPAC name
Poly(methyl 2-methylpropenoate)
Other names
  • Poly(methyl methacrylate)
  • PMMA
  • Methyl methacrylate resin
  • Perspex
3D model (JSmol)
  • None
ECHA InfoCard 100.112.313 OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
(C 5 O 2 H 8)n
Molar mass Varies
Density 1.18 g/cm3 [1]
Melting point 160 °C (320 °F; 433 K) [2]
−9.06×10−6 (SI, 22 °C) [3]
1.4905 at 589.3 nm [4]
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references
Lichtenberg figure: high voltage dielectric breakdown in an acrylic polymer block Lichtenberg figure in block of Plexiglas.jpg
Lichtenberg figure: high voltage dielectric breakdown in an acrylic polymer block

Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), also known as acrylic, or acrylic glass, as well as by the trade names Crylux, Plexiglas acrylic, Acrylite, Astariglas, Lucite, Perclax, and Perspex, among several others (see below), is a transparent thermoplastic often used in sheet form as a lightweight or shatter-resistant alternative to glass. The same material can be used as a casting resin or in inks and coatings, among many other uses.


Although not a type of familiar silica-based glass, the substance, like many thermoplastics, is often technically classified as a type of glass (in that it is a non-crystalline vitreous substance) hence its occasional historic designation as acrylic glass. Chemically, it is the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate. The material was developed in 1928 in several different laboratories by many chemists, such as William Chalmers, Otto Röhm, and Walter Bauer, and was first brought to market in 1933 by German Röhm & Haas AG (as of January 2019 part of Evonik Industries) and its partner and former U.S. affiliate Rohm and Haas Company under the trademark Plexiglas acrylic. [5]

PMMA is an economical alternative to polycarbonate (PC) when tensile strength, flexural strength, transparency, polishability, and UV tolerance are more important than impact strength, chemical resistance, and heat resistance. [6] Additionally, PMMA does not contain the potentially harmful bisphenol-A subunits found in polycarbonate and is a far better choice for laser cutting. [7] It is often preferred because of its moderate properties, easy handling and processing, and low cost. Non-modified PMMA behaves in a brittle manner when under load, especially under an impact force, and is more prone to scratching than conventional inorganic glass, but modified PMMA is sometimes able to achieve high scratch and impact resistance.


The first acrylic acid was created in 1843. Methacrylic acid, derived from acrylic acid, was formulated in 1865. The reaction between methacrylic acid and methanol results in the ester methyl methacrylate. Polymethyl methacrylate was discovered in the early 1930s by British chemists Rowland Hill and John Crawford at Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in the United Kingdom. [ citation needed ] ICI registered the product under the trademark Perspex. About the same time, chemist and industrialist Otto Röhm of Rohm and Haas AG in Germany attempted to produce safety glass by polymerizing methyl methacrylate between two layers of glass. The polymer separated from the glass as a clear plastic sheet, which Röhm gave the trademarked name Plexiglas acrylic in 1933. [ citation needed ] Both Perspex and Plexiglas acrylic were commercialized in the late 1930s. In the United States, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (now DuPont Company) subsequently introduced its own product under the trademark Lucite. In 1936 ICI Acrylics (now Lucite International) began the first commercially viable production of acrylic safety glass. During World War II both Allied and Axis forces used acrylic glass for submarine periscopes and aircraft windscreen, canopies, and gun turrets. [8] Aeroplane pilots whose eyes were damaged by flying shards of PMMA fared much better than those injured by standard glass, demonstrating better compatibility between human tissue and PMMA than glass. [9] Civilian applications followed after the war. [10]


Common orthographic stylings include polymethyl methacrylate [11] [12] and polymethylmethacrylate. The full IUPAC chemical name is poly(methyl 2-methylpropenoate). (It is a common mistake to use "an" instead of "en".)

Although PMMA is often called simply "acrylic", acrylic can also refer to other polymers or copolymers containing polyacrylonitrile. Notable trade names include Acrylite, [13] Lucite, [14] PerClax, R-Cast, [15] Plexiglas acrylic, [16] [17] Optix, [16] Perspex, [16] Oroglas, [18] Altuglas, [19] Cyrolite, [16] Astariglas, [20] Cho Chen, [21] and Sumipex.


PMMA is routinely produced by emulsion polymerization, solution polymerization, and bulk polymerization. Generally, radical initiation is used (including living polymerization methods), but anionic polymerization of PMMA can also be performed. To produce 1 kg (2.2 lb) of PMMA, about 2 kg (4.4 lb) of petroleum is needed.[ citation needed ] PMMA produced by radical polymerization (all commercial PMMA) is atactic and completely amorphous.


The glass transition temperature (Tg) of atactic PMMA is 105 °C (221 °F). The Tg values of commercial grades of PMMA range from 85 to 165 °C (185 to 329 °F); the range is so wide because of the vast number of commercial compositions which are copolymers with co-monomers other than methyl methacrylate. PMMA is thus an organic glass at room temperature; i.e., it is below its Tg. The forming temperature starts at the glass transition temperature and goes up from there. [22] All common molding processes may be used, including injection molding, compression molding, and extrusion. The highest quality PMMA sheets are produced by cell casting, but in this case, the polymerization and molding steps occur concurrently. The strength of the material is higher than molding grades owing to its extremely high molecular mass. Rubber toughening has been used to increase the toughness of PMMA to overcome its brittle behavior in response to applied loads.

Handling, cutting, and joining

PMMA can be joined using cyanoacrylate cement (commonly known as superglue), with heat (welding), or by using chlorinated solvents such as dichloromethane or trichloromethane [23] (chloroform) to dissolve the plastic at the joint, which then fuses and sets, forming an almost invisible weld. Scratches may easily be removed by polishing or by heating the surface of the material.

Laser cutting may be used to form intricate designs from PMMA sheets. PMMA vaporizes to gaseous compounds (including its monomers) upon laser cutting, so a very clean cut is made, and cutting is performed very easily. However, the pulsed lasercutting introduces high internal stresses along the cut edge, which on exposure to solvents produce undesirable "stress-crazing" at the cut edge and several millimetres deep. Even ammonium-based glass-cleaner and almost everything short of soap-and-water produces similar undesirable crazing, sometimes over the entire surface of the cut parts, at great distances from the stressed edge. [24] Annealing the PMMA sheet/parts is therefore an obligatory post-processing step when intending to chemically bond lasercut parts together.

In the majority of applications, it will not shatter. Rather, it breaks into large dull pieces. Since PMMA is softer and more easily scratched than glass, scratch-resistant coatings are often added to PMMA sheets to protect it (as well as possible other functions).

Acrylate resin casting

Illustrative and secure bromine chemical sample used for teaching. The glass sample vial of the corrosive and poisonous liquid has been cast into an acrylic plastic cube Bromine vial in acrylic cube.jpg
Illustrative and secure bromine chemical sample used for teaching. The glass sample vial of the corrosive and poisonous liquid has been cast into an acrylic plastic cube

Methyl methacrylate "synthetic resin" for casting (simply the bulk liquid chemical) may be used in conjunction with a polymerization catalyst such as methyl ethyl ketone peroxide (MEKP), to produce hardened transparent PMMA in any shape, from a mold. Objects like insects or coins, or even dangerous chemicals in breakable quartz ampules, may be embedded in such "cast" blocks, for display and safe handling.


Skeletal structure of methyl methacrylate, the constituent monomer of PMMA Methyl-methacrylate-skeletal.png
Skeletal structure of methyl methacrylate, the constituent monomer of PMMA
Pieces of perspex, the windscreen of a German plane shot down during World War II Perspex pieces (AM 2007.10.2-2).jpg
Pieces of perspex, the windscreen of a German plane shot down during World War II

PMMA is a strong, tough, and lightweight material. It has a density of 1.17–1.20 g/cm3, [1] [25] which is less than half that of glass. [1] It also has good impact strength, higher than both glass and polystyrene; however, PMMA's impact strength is still significantly lower than polycarbonate and some engineered polymers. PMMA ignites at 460 °C (860 °F) and burns, forming carbon dioxide, water, carbon monoxide and low-molecular-weight compounds, including formaldehyde. [26]

PMMA transmits up to 92% of visible light (3 mm thickness), and gives a reflection of about 4% from each of its surfaces due to its refractive index (1.4905 at 589.3 nm). [4] It filters ultraviolet (UV) light at wavelengths below about 300 nm (similar to ordinary window glass). Some manufacturers [27] add coatings or additives to PMMA to improve absorption in the 300–400 nm range. PMMA passes infrared light of up to 2,800 nm and blocks IR of longer wavelengths up to 25,000 nm. Colored PMMA varieties allow specific IR wavelengths to pass while blocking visible light (for remote control or heat sensor applications, for example).

PMMA swells and dissolves in many organic solvents; it also has poor resistance to many other chemicals due to its easily hydrolyzed ester groups. Nevertheless, its environmental stability is superior to most other plastics such as polystyrene and polyethylene, and PMMA is therefore often the material of choice for outdoor applications. [28]

PMMA has a maximum water absorption ratio of 0.3–0.4% by weight. [25] Tensile strength decreases with increased water absorption. [29] Its coefficient of thermal expansion is relatively high at (5–10)×10−5 °C−1. [30]

Modification of properties

Pure poly(methyl methacrylate) homopolymer is rarely sold as an end product, since it is not optimized for most applications. Rather, modified formulations with varying amounts of other comonomers, additives, and fillers are created for uses where specific properties are required. For example,

Poly(methyl acrylate)

The polymer of methyl acrylate, PMA or poly(methyl acrylate), is similar to poly(methyl methacrylate), except for the lack of methyl groups on the backbone carbon chain. [32] PMA is a soft white rubbery material that is softer than PMMA because its long polymer chains are thinner and smoother and can more easily slide past each other.


Being transparent and durable, PMMA is a versatile material and has been used in a wide range of fields and applications such as rear-lights and instrument clusters for vehicles, appliances, and lenses for glasses. PMMA in the form of sheets affords to shatter resistant panels for building windows, skylights, bulletproof security barriers, signs & displays, sanitary ware (bathtubs), LCD screens, furniture and many other applications. It is also used for coating polymers based on MMA provides outstanding stability against environmental conditions with reduced emission of VOC. Methacrylate polymers are used extensively in medical and dental applications where purity and stability are critical to performance.[ citation needed ]

Transparent glass substitute

Close-up of pressure sphere of Bathyscaphe Trieste, with a single conical window of PMMA set into sphere hull. The very small black circle (smaller than the man's head) is the inner side of the plastic "window," and is only a few inches in diameter. The larger circular clear black area represents the larger outer-side of the thick one-piece plastic cone "window." Bathyscaphe Trieste sphere.jpg
Close-up of pressure sphere of Bathyscaphe Trieste, with a single conical window of PMMA set into sphere hull. The very small black circle (smaller than the man's head) is the inner side of the plastic "window," and is only a few inches in diameter. The larger circular clear black area represents the larger outer-side of the thick one-piece plastic cone "window."
10-meter (33-foot) deep Monterey Bay Aquarium tank has acrylic windows up to 33 centimeters (13 inches) thick to withstand the water pressure KelpAquarium.jpg
10-meter (33-foot) deep Monterey Bay Aquarium tank has acrylic windows up to 33 centimeters (13 inches) thick to withstand the water pressure

Daylight redirection

Medical technologies and implants

In particular, acrylic-type contact lenses are useful for cataract surgery in patients that have recurrent ocular inflammation (uveitis), as acrylic material induces less inflammation.

Uses in dentistry

Due to its aforementioned biocompatibility, Poly(methyl methacrylate) is a commonly used material in modern dentistry, particularly in the fabrication of dental prosthetics, artificial teeth, and orthodontic appliances.

Acrylic prosthetic construction
Pre-polymerized, powdered PMMA spheres are mixed with a Methyl Methacrylate liquid monomer, Benzoyl Peroxide (initiator), and NN-Dimethyl-P-Toluidine (accelerator), and placed under heat and pressure to produce a hardened polymerized PMMA structure. Through the use of injection molding techniques, wax based designs with artificial teeth set in predetermined positions built on gypsum stone models of patients' mouths can be converted into functional prosthetics used to replace missing dentition. PMMA polymer and methyl methacrylate monomer mix is then injected into a flask containing a gypsum mold of the previously designed prosthesis, and placed under heat to initiate polymerization process. Pressure is used during the curing process to minimize polymerization shrinkage, ensuring an accurate fit of the prosthesis. Though other methods of polymerizing PMMA for prosthetic fabrication exist, such as chemical and microwave resin activation, the previously described heat-activated resin polymerization technique is the most commonly used due to its cost effectiveness and minimal polymerization shrinkage.
Artificial teeth
While denture teeth can be made of several different materials, PMMA is a material of choice for the manufacturing of artificial teeth used in dental prosthetics. Mechanical properties of the material allow for heightened control of aesthetics, easy surface adjustments, decreased risk of fracture when in function in the oral cavity, and minimal wear against opposing teeth. Additionally, since the bases of dental prosthetics are often constructed using PMMA, adherence of PMMA denture teeth to PMMA denture bases is unparalleled, leading to the construction of a strong and durable prosthetic. [46]

Artistic and aesthetic uses

Lexus Perspex car sculpture. Lexus LF-A Crystallised Wind.jpg
Lexus Perspex car sculpture.
PMMA art by Manfred Kielnhofer Maylan-interior-design-neue-wiener-werkstaette-interlux-roehm- evonik- indeustries-contemporary-light-art-sedan-chair-seats-manfred-kielnhofer-illumination-auchtion.jpg
PMMA art by Manfred Kielnhofer
Kawai acrylic grand piano Kawai CR-40A.jpg
Kawai acrylic grand piano

Other uses


A Futuro house in Warrington, New Zealand Futuro house Warrington.JPG
A Futuro house in Warrington, New Zealand

The Futuro house was made of fibreglass-reinforced polyester plastic, polyester-polyurethane, and poly(methylmethacrylate); one of them was found to be degrading by cyanobacteria and Archaea. [57] [58]

See also

Related Research Articles


A thermoplastic, or thermosoftening plastic, is a plastic polymer material that becomes pliable or moldable at a certain elevated temperature and solidifies upon cooling.

Acrylic may refer to:


Acrylates (IUPAC: prop-2-enoates) are the salts and esters, and conjugate bases of acrylic acid. The acrylate ion is the anion CH2=CHCOO. Often acrylate refers to esters of acrylic acid, the most common member being methyl acrylate. These acrylates contain vinyl groups. These compounds are of interest because they are bifunctional: the vinyl group is susceptible to polymerization and the carboxylate group carries myriad functionality. Modified acrylates are also numerous, include methacrylates (CH2=C(CH3)CO2R) and cyanoacrylates (CH2=C(CN)CO2R). Acrylate also refers to polymers prepared from acrylate monomers. These polymers do not contain acrylate groups.

Polymer degradation is a change in the properties—tensile strength, color, shape, etc.—of a polymer or polymer-based product under the influence of one or more environmental factors such as heat, light or chemicals such as acids, alkalis and some salts. These changes are usually undesirable, such as cracking and chemical disintegration of products or, more rarely, desirable, as in biodegradation, or deliberately lowering the molecular weight of a polymer for recycling. The changes in properties are often termed "aging".

Polycarbonate Family of polymers

Polycarbonates (PC) are a group of thermoplastic polymers containing carbonate groups in their chemical structures. Polycarbonates used in engineering are strong, tough materials, and some grades are optically transparent. They are easily worked, molded, and thermoformed. Because of these properties, polycarbonates find many applications. Polycarbonates do not have a unique resin identification code (RIC) and are identified as "Other", 7 on the RIC list. Products made from polycarbonate can contain the precursor monomer bisphenol A (BPA).

Intraocular lens

Intraocular lens (IOL) is a lens implanted in the eye as part of a treatment for cataracts or myopia. The most common type of IOL is the pseudophakic IOL. These are implanted during cataract surgery, after the cloudy eye's natural lens has been removed. The pseudophakic IOL provides the same light focusing function as the natural crystalline lens. The second type of IOL, more commonly known as a phakic intraocular lens (PIOL), is a lens which is placed over the existing natural lens and is used in refractive surgery to change the eye's optical power as a treatment for myopia (nearsightedness).

Methyl methacrylate

Methyl methacrylate (MMA) is an organic compound with the formula CH2=C(CH3)COOCH3. This colorless liquid, the methyl ester of methacrylic acid (MAA), is a monomer produced on a large scale for the production of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA).


CR-39, or allyl diglycol carbonate (ADC), is a plastic polymer commonly used in the manufacture of eyeglass lenses. The abbreviation stands for "Columbia Resin #39", which was the 39th formula of a thermosetting plastic developed by the Columbia Resins project in 1940.

Poly(methyl acrylate)

Poly(methyl acrylate) (PMA) is a hydrophobic synthetic acrylate polymer. PMA, though softer than polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), is tough, leathery, and flexible.

Acrylate polymer

Acrylate polymers are a group of polymers prepared from acrylate monomers. These plastics are noted for their transparency, resistance to breakage, and elasticity. They are also commonly known as acrylics or polyacrylates. Acrylate polymer is commonly used in cosmetics, such as nail polish, as an adhesive.


Methacrylates are derivatives of methacrylic acid. These derivatives include the parent acid (CH2C(CH3)CO2H), salts (e.g., CH
Na+), esters (e.g. CH2C(CH3)CO2CH3, or methyl methacrylate) and the polymers of these species.

Otto Karl Julius Röhm was one of the founders and a longtime president of the Röhm und Haas chemical company which became later in the USA the Rohm and Haas and in Germany the Röhm GmbH.

Synthetic resins are industrially produced resins, typically viscous substances that convert into rigid polymers by the process of curing. In order to undergo curing, resins typically contain reactive end groups, such as acrylates or epoxides. Some synthetic resins have properties similar to natural plant resins, but many do not.

A polymer blend, or polymer mixture, is a member of a class of materials analogous to metal alloys, in which at least two polymers are blended together to create a new material with different physical properties.

Resin casting is a method of plastic casting where a mold is filled with a liquid synthetic resin, which then hardens. It is primarily used for small-scale production like industrial prototypes and dentistry. It can be done by amateur hobbyists with little initial investment, and is used in the production of collectible toys, models and figures, as well as small-scale jewellery production.

Cell casting is a method used for creating poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) sheets. Liquid monomer is poured between two flat sheets of toughened glass sealed with a rubber gasket and heated for polymerization. Because the glass sheets may contain surface scratches or sag during the process, this traditional method has some disadvantages: among other problems, the PMMA sheets may contain variations in thickness and surface defects. It has since been replaced by the more modern method for making PMMA, extrusion, which gives uniform quality.

Cast acrylic

Cast Acrylic is a form of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA). It is formed by casting the monomer, methyl methacrylate, mixed with initiators and possibly other additives into a form or mold. Sheet and rod stock are generated by casting into static forms, while tubing is done in rotational molds.

Acrylonitrile styrene acrylate

Acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA), also called acrylic styrene acrylonitrile, is an amorphous thermoplastic developed as an alternative to acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), but with improved weather resistance, and is widely used in the automotive industry. It is an acrylate rubber-modified styrene acrylonitrile copolymer. It is used for general prototyping in 3D printing, where its UV resistance and mechanical properties make it an excellent material for use in fused deposition modelling printers.

Dimethylaminoethyl acrylate or DMAEA is an unsaturated carboxylic acid ester having a tertiary amino group. It is a colorless to yellowish, water-miscible liquid with a pungent, amine-like odor. DMAEA is an important acrylic monomer that gives basic properties to copolymers.

Poly(ethyl methacrylate) (PEMA) is a hydrophobic synthetic acrylate polymer. It has properties similar to the more common PMMA, however it produces less heat during polymerization, has a lower modulus of elasticity and an overall softer texture. It may be vulcanized using lead oxide as a catalyst and it can be softened using ethanol.


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