Common Types of Polymer Additives and Their Functions

Different types of polymer additives

Common Types of Polymer Additives and Their Functions


Plastic is evolving with each passing day. It is improvising in all aspects. The production of plastic items involves transforming a range of foundational materials, notably polymers and various enhancing agents, into finished goods. Polymers, which are extensive molecular chains with repeating segments, serve as the primary components for plastics. These polymers come in a diverse array, each distinguished by its specific characteristics and applications.

Enhancing agents, or additives, are incorporated into the polymers during the plastic creation process. These additives are designed to augment the polymers’ innate qualities or to simplify the manufacturing workflow. They can endow the plastic with improved robustness, pliability, or thermal tolerance and can also enhance its visual appeal by altering its colour, texture, and overall look.

The role of polymer additives

Additives are crucial in both the manufacturing process and the functionality of plastic materials. They empower polymers to be customized for a wide range of applications across various industries, such as automotive, interior design, packaging, construction, and electronics. By incorporating specific molecules or particles into the base polymer, the end product’s overall and surface characteristics are significantly enhanced. Consider polypropylene, for instance: devoid of additives, this widely used polymer would degrade rapidly within weeks due to its inherent susceptibility to heat and oxidation, as highlighted by Bockhorn and colleagues in 1999. According to the European Community, an additive is any substance integrated into plastics to achieve a desired effect in the final product, thus making it an indispensable component of the end-use item. This section aims to provide insights into the most common plastic additives in recent years. We will explore various additives, including antioxidants, light stabilizers, UV absorbers, flame retardants, heat stabilizers, impact modifiers, plasticizers, compatibilizers, coupling agents, colourants, pigments, and brighteners.

A few common types of polymer additives


Colourants serve as essential additives in the polymer industry, altering the hue of the finished plastic goods. These additives, which include a variety of dyes and pigments, are key to achieving the desired colour and visual appeal for your product. For those seeking an exact shade for their polymer creations, consulting with a team of seasoned polymer specialists can be invaluable in attaining an exact colour match to meet stringent specifications.

Flame Retardants

In contexts where polymers are used in electrical applications or in scenarios with a high risk of fire, incorporating flame retardant additives into your polymer products is essential to enhance their resistance to catching fire. To ensure that your product maintains its integrity and does not succumb to combustion in its operational setting, it’s beneficial to collaborate with a polymer specialist. Such an expert can guide you in selecting the most appropriate flame retardant additives tailored to your product’s requirements.

Processing additives

Processing additives are mixed into polymers to enhance their manufacturability and the ease with which they can be shaped and handled. These additives, such as lubricants which encompass fatty acids, hydrocarbon waxes, and certain varieties of polyethylene, are crucial in optimizing the material’s processing performance.

Anti-static additives 

These are incorporated into plastics to reduce or completely eliminate the accumulation of static electricity on their surfaces. These substances, which include amines, ammonium compounds, and polyethylene glycol esters, are essential in ensuring that the plastic remains free from static charges.

The continuous evolution of plastics necessitates a nuanced understanding of the role and significance of polymer additives. From enhancing material properties to facilitating manufacturing processes, additives play a pivotal role in shaping the functionality and aesthetics of plastic products across diverse industries. As the demand for tailored solutions grows, collaboration with polymer specialists becomes increasingly indispensable to ensure the precise customization and optimization of additives. By harnessing the potential of additives such as colorants, flame retardants, processing aids, and anti-static agents, the plastic industry can continue to innovate and meet the evolving needs of modern society.