Are acrylic adhesives biodegradable? (7 applications) 

This article will elaborate on the biodegradability status of acrylic adhesives. Other covered aspects would include:

  • What are acrylic adhesives?
  • What are the properties of acrylic adhesives?
  • What are the pros and cons of acrylic adhesives?
  • What is biodegradability and why is it important?
  • Are acrylic adhesives biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Are acrylic adhesives biodegradable?

Acrylic adhesives are not biodegradable because they are made from synthetic polymers. 

For a substance to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural materials such as plant-based materials. 

However, there are green alternatives to acrylic adhesives which are made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch or wheat. 

Acrylic adhesive is a type of structural adhesive that may offer many advantages such as optimisations, snap curing time, special properties, and varying viscosities.

Acrylic adhesives may be used to bond dissimilar materials such as wood, metals, composites, foam et cetera.  

What are acrylic adhesives? (7 applications)

Acrylic adhesive is a type of structural adhesive which is also known as acrylate or methyl methacrylate. 

When it comes to structural adhesives, there are three main options to consider. These include epoxies, polyurethanes, and acrylic adhesives. 

A structural adhesive is any strong glue that is mainly used to bind together components in a load-bearing structure. The applications of structural adhesives are quite versatile and may include aircraft and composite parts. 

There are three modes of action when it comes to structural adhesives: 

  • Bonding of metal to metal
  • Bonding of metal to composite
  • Bonding of composite to composite 

When it comes to structural adhesives, there are, as said, three options available. The main question is how to know what to choose. 

The acrylic adhesive may be a good choice of adhesive when metal, plastic and composite materials are needed to be glued with fast cycles. 

The major applications of acrylic adhesive include: 

  • Metals
  • Composites
  • Foams
  • Wood
  • Elastomers
  • Thermosets
  • Thermoplastics 

What are the properties of acrylic adhesives?

This section will cover and unravel the properties of acrylic adhesives. The properties of acrylic adhesives can be explained through certain domains. These include: 

  • Viscosity 
  • Cure time 
  • Other properties 

Viscosity is a measure of how thick or fluid the adhesive is. This varies based on external conditions and the type of work required. 

Acrylic adhesives come in a wide range of viscosities that make its use versatile and befitting for a wide range of jobs. That is why acrylic adhesives may be used for: 

  • General Manufacturing
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Signage fabrication 
  • Countertop fabrication 

Another characteristic of acrylic adhesive is the cure time. This is a measure of how much time is required for an adhesive to form a bond between structures. 

The required cure time may also vary based on the required functions because sometimes you need fast cure times whereas, sometimes, you really require a rather slow curing process that fits rightly with your schedules. 

When it comes to the cure time of acrylic adhesives, it is claimed that acrylic adhesives have a snap cure technology which means that most of its curing is done in the first few hours. 

This is the very reason why acrylic adhesives are preferred and have taken the place of other types of structural adhesives such as epoxies. 

Another very important trait of acrylic adhesive is that it may also come along with some other properties as it may be required by the manufacturing process. 

These properties may include:

  • Flexibility
  • Thermal resistance
  • Rays resistance (such as UV)
  • Low surface energy 
  • Spacer beads

The overall idea here is that acrylic adhesive can be tailored to provide extra, special properties which may improve your overall manufacturing process. This is yet another reason why acrylic adhesives are preferred over its counterpart.

What are the pros and cons of acrylic adhesives?

This section will unravel the pros and cons of acrylic adhesives. Let us first talk about the pros. Acrylic adhesives may come along with the following advantages:

  • Light-weight
  • Ability to be optimised
  • Economical
  • Less time consumptive
  • Available in different viscosities
  • Can bond dissimilar materials

There are many great advantages offered by acrylic adhesives. One such is the ability to be optimised. Acrylic adhesives may come in certain required variations such as UV resistance or thermal resistance. 

These benefits really make acrylic adhesive stand out among its counterparts. It was discussed that acrylic adhesives have the trait of snap curing. This means that more than 80% of the curing will happen in the first few hours. 

This is yet another advantage offered by acrylic adhesive. This is also the reason why acrylic adhesive is preferred over epoxies. However, if the comparison is made with rubber adhesives, then rubber adhesives take the win. 

Acrylic adhesives also have the capacity to bond with dissimilar materials. These days, the applications and extents of commercial products are expanding and growing. Because of this, there is a need to glue different types of materials. 

An example can be the binding of polymers with metals. When this is the case, an acrylic adhesive is an answer because of its versatile uses, acrylic adhesives can bond dissimilar materials too. 

However, since acrylic adhesives are derived from synthetic polymers, they are non-biodegradable. There are a number of environmental impacts caused by non-biodegradable materials. Let us rummage over a few:

  • Global warming
  • Deforestation
  • Soil erosion
  • Pollution 
  • Contamination of waterways
  • Ozone depletion
  • Acid rain
  • Unexpected weather patterns
  • Floods
  • Heavy rains
  • Droughts
  • Destruction of crops 
  • Loss of substantiality 
  • Financial losses 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be defined as a process in which biological agents such as enzymes and microbes break down complex waste into simpler structures. The simpler structures are thus able to get back to the system. 

Every day you come across the process of biodegradation. The rotten vegetables that you dispose of or the spoiled fruits that you think can not be eaten. These are common, everyday examples of biodegradation. 

It is the very process of biodegradation that is responsible for the spoilage of food. It can be termed the necessary evil because on one side food is spoiled but on the other side, it is ensured that there is no waste accumulation. 

If there is waste accumulation, there will be environmental problems and anomalies because the waste will lead to problems such as pollution and human diseases. 

Other than microbes and enzymes, there are also external factors that play a key role in the process of biodegradation. These include:

  • Sunlight 
  • Temperature
  • Aeration
  • Presence or absence of oxygen 
  • Type of microbes

Based on biodegradability, waste may be divided into two categories. These are 

  • Biodegradable waste
  • Non-biodegradable waste 

Examples of biodegradable waste include crops, plants, dead animals, manure, sewage, bioplastics, and natural fabrics. These may degrade in some days or some months. 

Examples of non-biodegradable waste may include synthetic plastics, epoxies, synthetic dyes, and synthetic fabrics like acrylic fabrics. These substances may remain in landfills for hundreds of years. 

For example, synthetic plastics may degrade in more than a thousand years while also causing other environmental problems such as global warming, weather anomalies et cetera.

What is the importance of biodegradability?

The importance of biodegradability can be explained from a simple analogy. Consider that you are unable to dump the waste produced by your house. 

Now consider that you can not dump that waste for an extended period of time, let us say one year. Do you think that your house will be livable?

Obviously not. The same is the case for biodegradability. Biodegradability can be regarded as the Earth’s dustbin whereas your house is the Earth. 

If there is no dustbin, our house will not be able to support life. The result? Armageddon. As per the statistics, there is a generation of more than 2 billion tons of waste every year. 

What this means is that every person, on average, makes about 5 kgs of waste every day. Biodegradability is a measure to ensure that this mass amount of waste does not cause that big of havoc. 

If there is no biodegradability, the waste will remain in the system for hundreds of years. This will lead to decapacitation of waste systems and decreased ability to support life. 

Is acrylic adhesive biodegradable?

We have discussed the general rule of thumb pertaining to the process and prospects of biodegradability. 

It has been discussed that natural materials such as plant waste or animal waste are more prone to the process of biodegradability. However, this is not the case for synthetic materials like plastics. 

Since acrylic adhesives are made from synthetic polymers, it is plausible to conclude that acrylic adhesives are not biodegradable. 

However, there are green adhesives as well. There are biodegradable adhesives that are made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch, wheat, and potato. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is acrylic adhesive biodegradable?

What type of adhesive acrylic adhesive is?

Acrylic adhesive is a type of structural adhesive. A structural adhesive is any strong glue that is mainly used to bind together components in a load-bearing structure.

What are biodegradable adhesives made of?

Biodegradable adhesives are made from plant-based materials such as cornstarch, wheat, and potato. 

References

  • Paz, E., Narbon, J. J., Abenojar, J., Cledera, M., & Del Real, J. C. (2016). Influence of acrylic adhesive viscosity and surface roughness on the properties of adhesive joint. The Journal of adhesion, 92(11), 877-891.
  • Lamblet, M., Verneuil, E., Vilmin, T., Buguin, A., Silberzan, P., & Léger, L. (2007). Adhesion enhancement through micropatterning at polydimethylsiloxane− acrylic adhesive interfaces. Langmuir, 23(13), 6966-6974.
  • Hartshorn, S. R. (Ed.). (2012). Structural adhesives: chemistry and technology. Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Dunn, D. J. (2004). Engineering and structural adhesives (Vol. 15). iSmithers Rapra Publishing.
  • Tokiwa, Y., Calabia, B. P., Ugwu, C. U., & Aiba, S. (2009). Biodegradability of plastics. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(9), 3722-3742.
  • Gaytán, I., Burelo, M., & Loza-Tavera, H. (2021). Current status on the biodegradability of acrylic polymers: microorganisms, enzymes and metabolic pathways involved. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 105(3), 991-1006.
  • Zhang, X., Jiang, Y., Han, L., & Lu, X. (2021). Biodegradable polymer hydrogel‐based tissue adhesives: A review. Biosurface and Biotribology, 7(4), 163-179.

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