Ceramics, polymers and composites


  • Most of the glass we use is soda-lime glass, made by heating a mixture of sand, sodium carbonate and limestone. Borosilicate glass, made from sand and boron trioxide, melts at higher temperatures than soda-lime glass.

Clay ceramics, including pottery and bricks, are made by shaping wet clay and then heating in a furnace.

The properties of polymers depend on what monomers they are made from and the conditions under which they are made. For example, low density (LD) and high density (HD) poly(ethene) are produced from ethene.

Thermosoftening polymers melt when they are heated. Thermosetting polymers do not melt when they are heated.

Students should be able to:

  • explain how low density and high density poly(ethene) are both produced from ethene
  • explain the difference between thermosoftening and thermosetting polymers in terms of their structures.
  • Most composites are made of two materials, a matrix or binder surrounding and binding together fibres or fragments of the other material, which is called the reinforcement.
  1. Students should be able to recall some examples of composites.
  2. Students should be able to, given appropriate information:

compare quantitatively the physical properties of glass and clay ceramics, polymers, composites and metals

explain how the properties of materials are related to their uses and select appropriate materials.

WS 1.4Explain everyday and technological applications of science; evaluate associated personal, social, economic and environmental implications; and make decisions based on the evaluation of evidence and arguments.

WS 3.5 Interpreting observations and other data (presented in verbal, diagrammatic, graphical, symbolic or numerical form), including identifying patterns and trends, making inferences and drawing conclusions.

WS 3.8 Communicating the scientific rationale for investigations, methods used, findings and reasoned conclusions through paper-based and electronic reports and presentations using verbal, diagrammatic, graphical, numerical and symbolic forms.