Difference Between Fiberglass and Plastic

Main Difference – Fiberglass vs Plastic

Fiberglass and plastic are important compounds that are used in the production of different items that we use in our daily life. These are synthetic substances, which means, fiberglass and plastic are made by humans. The production of these compounds is done in very large industries. Although these compounds look similar and exhibit somewhat related properties, they are different from each other. The main difference between fiberglass and plastic is that fiberglass is inorganic whereas plastic is organic.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Fiberglass
      – Definition, Production Method, Properties and Uses
2. What is Plastic
      – Definition, Production Method, Properties and Uses
3. What is the Difference Between Fiberglass and Plastic
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Fiberglass, Fiber-Reinforced Plastic, Glass, Malleable, Plastic, Polyester, Polyethylene, Resin

Difference Between Fiberglass and Plastic - Comparison Summary

What is Fiberglass

Fiberglass is a reinforced plastic material composed of glass fibers embedded in a resin matrix. It is a type of fiber-reinforced plastic. This means it is a composite material that is composed of a polymer material embedded with fibers. The fibers used here are glass fibers.

The production of fiberglass starts with heating glass until it is molten. Then this molten glass is forced to extrude through very tiny holes. This creates very thin glass filaments. Then these glass filaments are coated with a suitable chemical compound and are bundled together. This coating is done to ensure the proper bonding between glass fibers and resin. Therefore, these chemicals are called binders. If not, these threads can be woven. Then a resin is added to this bundle of glass fibers or the woven structure. This gives the fiberglass a higher strength.

Main Difference - Fiberglass vs Plastic

Figure 1: A Canoe made out of Fiberglass

There are many uses of fiberglass; for example, it is used to produce doors, cupboards, boats, automobile parts, etc. These things can be made from fiberglass because fiberglass has a higher strength compared to its lower weight. Fiberglass products are also very durable.

What is Plastic

Plastic is a synthetic material that is composed of a wide range of organic polymers. Plastic is an organic compound. It is a malleable substance; thus, it can be molded into different shapes to obtain different objects.

Plastic is composed of polymer chains mainly made out of carbon atoms along with hydrogen and some other elements. These polymer chains have many repeating units. These repeating units represent the monomer that was used for the production of the plastic. In order to obtain desired properties for the plastic, we can add different side group to these polymer chains.

Since there is a wide range of different plastics, they can be categorized according to their composition. For example, polyester is a plastic. It is named as such because it is made out of ester monomers. Sometimes plastics are classified according to their physical properties like hardness, density, etc. There are other classifications based on many other parameters.

Another important group of plastics is thermoplastic compounds. These are polymer compounds. Thermoplastic polymers do not undergo any changes in their chemical structure when heated. Therefore, these polymers can be molded to obtain a different shape. Polyethylene, Polypropylene, and PVC are good examples of thermoplastic polymers.

Difference Between Fiberglass and Plastic

Figure 2: Plastic is very useful in the production of different needs.

Plastics are usually solid compounds. They are poor conductors of heat and electricity. Plastics are durable with a slow degradation. They are very useful due to these important properties. There are plastic products everywhere, and we use them for many different purposes.

Difference Between Fiberglass and Plastic

Definition

Fiberglass: Fiberglass refers to a reinforced plastic material composed of glass fibers embedded in a resin matrix.

Plastics: Plastic is a synthetic material that is composed of a wide range of organic polymers.

Classification

Fiberglass: Fiberglass is an inorganic compound.

Plastics: Plastic is an organic compound.

Composition

Fiberglass: Fiberglass is composed of glass threads and resin.

Plastics: Plastics are composed of organic polymer chains.

Specific Properties

Fiberglass: Fiberglass has a high strength when compared to its light weight.

Plastics: Plastics can be heated and molded back into different shapes.

Conclusion

Fiberglass and plastics are very important compounds that are used to make different products used in day to day life. Fiberglass is very famous in the production of boat hulls due to its high strength and light weight. Plastics are used for the production of several thousands of items.  Although fiberglass also looks like plastic, it is actually not a type of plastic. The main difference between fiberglass and plastic is that fiberglass is inorganic whereas plastic is organic.

References:

1. “Fiberglass.” How Products Are Made, Available here.
2. Johnson, Todd. “All You Wanted to Know about Fiberglass.” ThoughtCo, Available here.
3. Helmenstine, Ph.D. Anne Marie. “What Is Plastic? Definition and Examples.” ThoughtCo, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “1998-10-tema-canoe” By Robertbody at English Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Plastic alphabet 02″ By Martin Abegglen –  (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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