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What Is Polyvinyl Acetate?

Polyvinyl acetate is used to make latex paints.
Bottle of glue.
Polyvinyl acetate coating on cheese.
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  • Written By: Amy Dyslex
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2014
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Polyvinyl acetate (PVA or PVAc) is a thermoplastic polymer with a chemical formula of (C4H6O2)n. It is normally manufactured by the free radical polymerization of vinyl acetate. The procedure involves the reaction of monomer molecules of vinyl acetate by submerging them into water. This results in the formation of a emulsion that is milky white in color. The emulsion fluid can then instantly be processed as a polyvinyl acetate polymer in products comprising the PVAc as a constituent element.

PVAc is primarily a synthetic resin polymer, which, due its non-polar nature, is insoluble in water, oils, fats, or gasoline. On the other hand, it is soluble in alcohols, ketones, and esters. It has a molar mass of 86.09 grams per mole (g/mol). The ester groups in its structural lattice render it reactive with alkalis, and lead to the formation of polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH, PVA, or PVAL) and acetic acid (CH3COOH). Boron compounds like borax and boric acid also react with the polymer, under alkaline settings, leading to the formation of a complex borate-slime-precipitate.

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Polyvinyl acetate was first discovered by a German scientist Dr. Fritz Klatte in 1912. Since its discovery, it has been employed widely as a binding material, due to its adhesive properties for porous materials like wood and paper. Other than its use as a glue, it is also used in paper and textile industry to produce coatings that lend a shiny touch to surfaces. PVAc is commonly used in the manufacture of latex paints, where it helps in forming a tough coating and a supportive film. It is also widely used for the production of adhesives, which are more commonly known as carpenter's or white glue.

Industrial applications of PVAc normally use it in the form of a liquefied emulsion. The polymer exhibits sound resistance to UV rays and oxidation. This renders it an effective polymer with good aging characteristics, yet its water sensitivity can be a problem. This is typically taken care of by formulating it with plasticizers to increase its reliability and stability.

When PVAc is incorporated into emulsion coatings and adhesives, it is normally converted to polyvinyl alcohol first, which is a water-soluble polymer. This is done by means of partial hydrolysis. On a lesser level, it is also used as a protective coating for cheese to render it safe from humidity and fungi.

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Discuss this Article

anon288877
Post 6

If PVAc is non- polar, then why is it not soluble with oil?

anon285144
Post 5

I was looking for material that is being used for adhesion for disposable draping for patients in hospitals.

SkyWhisperer
Post 2

@MrMoody - Yes, carpenters know all about wood glue. It’s quite common. I don’t know if they realize the chemical name for its ingredients, but they probably don’t care either way—as long as it works. However, I think Polyvinyl Acetate is found in regular glue as well, if I’m not mistaken, so you probably used it without realizing it.

MrMoody
Post 1

The first time I had to use PVA material was when I had to build a catapult for my son’s high school physics project. Yes, I know it sounds crazy--they make these kids build catapults in physics—as if the physics itself wasn’t hard enough without forcing the students to do woodworking projects.

Anyway, I had a friend helped me build it and he said that in addition to using nails to join the wooden beams we needed to go to the store and get wood glue. I had never used wood glue before. So we got some and used it and I have to admit, it worked pretty good.

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