What is the Difference Between ABS Plastic and Polypropylene

The main difference between ABS plastic and polypropylene is that ABS plastic is known for its strength, impact resistance, and rigidity while polypropylene is known for flexibility.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic and polypropylene are two widely used thermoplastics. Each has its own distinct characteristics and applications.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is ABS Plastic  
      – Definition, Features, Applications
2. What is Polypropylene
      – Definition, Features, Applications 
3. Similarities Between ABS Plastic and Polypropylene
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between ABS Plastic and Polypropylene
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: ABS Plastic and Polypropylene
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

ABS Plastic, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene Plastic, Polypropylene

Difference Between Difference Between Sodium Acetate and Sodium Acetate Trihydrate - Comparison Summary

What is ABS Plastic

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, commonly known as ABS plastic, is a versatile and widely used polymer renowned for its exceptional mechanical properties and broad applicability. The chemistry behind ABS involves the polymerization of three monomers: acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene.

Acrylonitrile (AN): AN contributes to ABS’s chemical resistance and stability. Its addition enhances the overall hardness and strength of the plastic. The presence of acrylonitrile in the polymer chain provides ABS with improved resistance to heat, chemicals, and oils, making it suitable for a range of applications.

Butadiene (BD): Butadiene, a conjugated diene, imparts flexibility and impact resistance to ABS. The presence of butadiene in the polymer structure creates a rubbery phase within the plastic, allowing it to absorb and distribute impact energy effectively.

Styrene (S): Styrene is the third monomer in ABS, contributing to its rigidity, gloss, and processability. The inclusion of styrene ensures that ABS is easy to mold and shape, making it a preferred choice for injection molding processes.

Compare ABS Plastic and Polypropylene

The polymerization reaction typically involves emulsion or solution polymerization methods. The unique combination of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene results in a heterophasic polymer structure. ABS is a thermoplastic consisting of a rigid, styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) phase and a rubbery polybutadiene phase. This dual-phase structure contributes to the exceptional balance of mechanical properties exhibited by ABS, including strength, impact resistance, and dimensional stability.

ABS plastic has extensive use in various industries, including automotive, electronics, and consumer goods. Its well-balanced properties make it suitable for applications such as automotive interior components, computer housings, toys, and kitchen appliances. Additionally, ABS is easily modified, allowing for the incorporation of additives or reinforcements to tailor its properties to specific requirements.

What is Polypropylene

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic and a member of the polyolefin family, characterized by the presence of only carbon and hydrogen atoms in its repeating units. Chemically, polypropylene is derived from propylene, a gaseous hydrocarbon obtained during the refining of petroleum. The polymerization process typically involves the use of a catalyst, often a transition metal compound, to link the propylene monomers together. Ziegler-Natta and metallocene catalysts are commonly employed, enabling precise control over the polymer’s molecular weight and structure.

Polypropylene’s backbone consists of a chain of propylene monomers, each comprising three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms. The polymerization results in a linear structure, contributing to its high crystallinity. The arrangement of these repeating units influences the material’s mechanical and thermal properties.

One of polypropylene’s notable features is its ability to form a highly crystalline structure, which contributes to its stiffness and strength. This crystallinity also makes it resistant to fatigue and stress cracking, enhancing its durability. The material’s high melting point, typically above 160 degrees Celsius, further adds to its thermal stability.

ABS Plastic vs Polypropylene

The chemical inertness of polypropylene arises from its simple carbon-hydrogen backbone. This inert nature makes it resistant to many chemical solvents and acids, contributing to its widespread use in chemical and corrosion-resistant applications. Moreover, polypropylene’s low water absorption makes it ideal for applications where moisture resistance is crucial.

Despite its inertness, polypropylene can undergo specific chemical modifications to introduce desired functionalities. These modifications may include grafting polar groups onto the polymer chain or incorporating additives during the polymerization process. These adjustments can enhance properties such as adhesion, UV resistance, and flame retardancy, expanding the polymer’s utility in various industries.

Polypropylene’s molecular structure also makes it recyclable. The ability to recycle polypropylene helps reduce environmental impact and promotes a circular economy for plastics.

Similarities Between ABS plastic and polypropylene

  • Both materials are relatively lightweight.
  • Both ABS and polypropylene are durable plastics.

Difference Between ABS Plastic and Polypropylene


ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a thermoplastic polymer composed of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene, while polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic polymer consisting of propylene monomers.


While ABS plastic is known for its strength, impact resistance, and rigidity, polypropylene is more flexible.


ABS is commonly used in applications that require toughness and impact resistance, such as automotive parts, electronic housings, and toys. Polypropylene, on the other hand, is often chosen for applications where chemical resistance, flexibility, and low cost are crucial, such as packaging, textiles, and medical devices.

FAQ: ABS Plastic and Polypropylene

Which is stronger, ABS or polypropylene?

ABS is generally stronger than polypropylene and offers better impact resistance and toughness.

Is polypropylene expensive?

No, polypropylene is relatively less costly. In fact, it is one of the least expensive thermoplastics on the market today.

What is the lifespan of polypropylene?

Polypropylene has a lifespan of about 20 years. 


ABS is a thermoplastic polymer composed of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene, while polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer consisting of propylene monomers. The main difference between ABS plastic and polypropylene is that ABS plastic is known for its strength, impact resistance, and rigidity, while polypropylene is known for flexibility.


1. “Polypropylene.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
2. “Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Grãos de plástico ABS (ABS plastic grains)” By ABS_grains.jpg: OllixtcRighello.jpg: Luigi Chiesaderivative work: SaraCSF (talk) – ABS_grains.jpgRighello.jpg (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Polypropylen” By NEUROtiker – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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