Difference Between Olefin and Polypropylene

Main Difference – Olefin vs Polypropylene

Olefins are alkenes. Therefore, olefins are hydrocarbon compounds. There are many different applications of olefins due to their important chemical properties such as chemical resistance and high melting point. Polypropylene is a polymer compound. It is made out of propylene monomers. It is a thermoplastic polymer that has a wide variety of uses. Polypropylene is unusually resistant to some chemicals such as acids and bases. This makes it suitable for many applications. The main difference between olefin and polypropylene is that olefins are essentially composed of one or more double bonds between carbon atoms whereas polypropylenes have no double bonds in their chemical structure.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Olefin
      – Definition, Classification, Chemical Properties
2. What is Polypropylene
      – Definition, Applications with respect to Properties, Production
3. What is the Difference Between Olefin and Polypropylene
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Acyclic Olefins, Aliphatic, Alkene, Crude Oil, Cyclic Olefins, Hydrocarbon, Melting Point, Natural Gases, Olefin, Polymer, Polymerization, Polypropylene, Thermoplastic Polymer, Zeigler-Natta Catalyst

Difference Between Olefin and Polypropylene - Comparison Summary

What is Olefin

Olefin is a group of hydrocarbons composed of only carbon and hydrogen atoms. Olefin is another name for alkenes since olefins are hydrocarbons that are composed of carbon atoms with double bonds. Therefore, olefins are composed of sp3 hybridized carbon atoms as well as sp2 hybridized carbon atoms. Olefins are unsaturated hydrocarbon compounds.

Olefins have C-H single bonds, C-C single bonds, and C=C double bonds. There can be several different combinations of carbon and hydrogen atoms. But all these combinations are represented by the general formula of olefins, which is CnH2n where n is a whole number.

Olefins can be categorized in several different ways. Cyclic structures are known as cyclic olefins. Aliphatic structures are called acyclic olefins. By the number of double bonds present in the chemical structure, olefins can be named as monoolefins, diolefins, triolefins, etc.

Difference Between Olefin and Polypropylene

Figure 1: Beta-carotene is an olefin that can be found in Carrot.

Olefins can be found in all three phases of matter depending on their chemical structures. Simple olefins exist as gases whereas complex olefins exist as liquids or solids. Due to their high chemical reactivity, olefins occur in very limited amounts in crude oil and natural gases. Olefins can be produced in refineries during crude oil processing. Here, olefins are produced by cracking processes. For example, thermal cracking is a major reaction that can be used to obtain olefins from petroleum oil.

Why are Alkenes Known as Olefins  

The names alkene and olefin represent the same group of compounds. The original name was olefin which means “oil forming gas” since they were first found as gases that can form oily liquids on reaction with chlorine gas. Later, the name alkene was introduced to name those compounds systematically. However, in industry, the term olefin is still used commonly than alkene.

What is Polypropylene

Polypropylene is a polymer material that is made out of propylene monomer. The general formula for polypropylene is given in the image below. Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer. This means, these polymers can get softened while heating and can be remoulded into different shapes.

Main Difference - Olefin vs Polypropylene

Figure 2: Repeating unit of Polypropylene

Polypropylene has a high melting point (130-170oC). Therefore, this polymer material can be used for making containers for the microwave. Polypropylene does not react with water and most chemicals. This property allows polypropylene to be used as containers that can be used to store chemicals. It is generally considered as a tough material and is highly resistant to electricity. Thus, it is a good electrical insulator.

Polypropylene is made via addition polymerization. The most common method of production is using Zeigler-Natta catalyst. It can be done in two different processes as bulk process and gas phase process. In bulk process, the polymerization takes place in liquid propene; later, the solid polymer particles are separated from the liquid and, propene is recycled.

Difference Between Olefin and Polypropylene

Definition

Olefin: Olefin is a group of hydrocarbons that is composed of only carbon and hydrogen atoms.

Polypropylene: Polypropylene is a polymer that is made out of propylene monomer.

Presence of Double Bonds

Olefin: Olefins essentially are composed of one or more double bonds between carbon atoms.

Polypropylene: Polypropylene has no double bonds in its polymer structure.

Hybridization of Carbon Atoms

Olefin: Olefins have both sp2 hybridized and sp3 hybridized carbon atoms.

Polypropylene: Polypropylene has only sp3 hybridized carbon atoms.

Phase of Matter

Olefin: Olefins can be found in one of all three phases of matter.

Polypropylene: Polypropylene is a solid material.

Conclusion

The term olefin is another name used for alkenes since these compounds are able to form oily liquids on reaction with chlorine gas. Polypropylene is a polymer material. The monomer that is used to make this polymer is polypropylene. The main difference between olefin and polypropylene is that olefins are essentially composed of one or more double bonds between carbon atoms whereas polypropylenes have no double bonds in their chemical structure.

References:

1. “Olefin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 21 Apr. 2015, Available here.
2. “What Is an Olefin in Chemistry?” Sciencing, Available here.
3. Lazonby, John. “Poly(Propene) (Polypropylene).” The Essential Chemical Industry online, Available here.
4. Creative Mechanisms. “Creative Mechanisms Blog .” Everything You Need To Know About Polypropylene (PP) Plastic, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Beta-carotene” (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Carrot-fb” By Collegestudent33 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “Polypropylene” By Ed (Edgar181) – Own work (Public Domain) 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.

Leave a Comment