What Is Polyvinyl Alcohol and What Do You Use It For?

posted by Chris Valentine

Chemical compounds are useful if you understand them, but many people don’t study beyond their one chemistry class in high school.

Polyvinyl alcohol is a compound that sounds elaborate, but it’s not so complicated you need a scientific background to figure it out.

If you’re not quite sure what polyvinyl alcohol is or what it’s used for, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out more about this chemical compound and its everyday applications.

What Is Polyvinyl Alcohol?

Polyvinyl alcohol, or PVA, is a chemical compound that has unique properties. It’s a key ingredient in a lot of resins and adhesives. It can dissolve in water, but not most other organic substances.

To make polyvinyl alcohol, scientists have to take polyvinyl acetate and dissolve it in alcohol. They add a catalyst to start the chemical reaction, and when the chemical reaction occurs, the acetates are removed. What’s left is PVA.

What Can I Use It For?

Polyvinyl alcohol, with a name that sounds complicated, actually has many practical uses. Most of the jobs it has involve making things work better, as you’ll see below. From helping printer paper not bleed ink to aiding paper whitener in being whiter, PVA is every product’s best friend and helper.

Resisting Oil and Grease

Polyvinyl alcohol is chiefly used in the paper industry, mostly for making paper that resists oil and grease. The compound also works for coating textiles and yarn, making them oil resistant.

This quality is useful for printing. Coating printer paper with PVA, known in this industry as a sizing agent, means that ink won’t run as much after you print on the paper.

Brightening Paper

Another quality of PVA is that it helps make paper brighter. PVA is added to optical brighteners. These are substances that help brighten the whiteness of the paper.

When the brighteners contain PVA, they don’t soak into the paper as easily but remain on top. That means the paper appears brighter than it would if the brightener soaked through to the base layer.

Dissolvable Packaging

Because PVA is non-toxic, the film it creates also works well to coat supplements and other food. The film or food packaging dissolves in water and leaves behind whatever it was coating, ready to be used.

Ingredients in Other Compounds

Manufacturers use PVA to make PVB, or polyvinyl butyral, which is used in many applications. It’s used for laminate coating for safety glass, as well as in resins and adhesives. PVB is also an ingredient in wire insulation.

Other Applications

PVA is a prime tool for sport fishermen. It’s used in bait bags that have an oil base with the bait inside. It’s highly useful because fishermen can lower the bag into the water and causing it to dissolve, leaving only the bait behind.

With the right conditions, polyvinyl alcohol is biodegradable, too. That means the demand for the product has shot up over the last few years. As companies seek to use sustainable packaging and coatings to give them a manageable footprint, PVA’s popularity continues to increase.

The Ultimate Solution

This handy, helpful chemical compound has so many uses, from paper products to fishing.

Polyvinyl alcohol’s properties make it one of the most sought-after packaging solutions in manufacturing today. For more great information, check out the rest of our website.

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