Synthesis of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Polymers

ABS is made by emulsion or continuous mass technique. Globally, the most important is the emulsion process. ABS can be processed by injection moldings or extrusion technique.

Synthesis of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Polymers

Synthesis of ABS Polymer

ABS is a terpolymer made by polymerizing styrene and acrylonitrile in the presence of polybutadiene. The proportions can vary from 15 to 35% acrylonitrile, 5 to 30% butadiene and 40 to 60% styrene. The result is a long chain of polybutadiene crisscrossed with shorter chains of poly (styrene-co-acrylonitrile). The nitrile groups from neighboring chains, being polar, attract each other and bind the chains together, making ABS stronger than pure polystyrene. The styrene gives the plastic a shiny, impervious surface. The polybutadiene, a rubbery substance, provides resilience even at low temperatures. For the majority of applications, ABS can be used between −20 and 80 °C (−4 and 176 °F) as its mechanical properties vary with temperature. The properties are created by rubber toughening, where fine particles of elastomer are distributed throughout the rigid matrix.


ABS resins consist essentially of two phases: a rubbery phase dispersed in a continuous glassy matrix of styrene–acrylonitrile copolymer (SAN) through a boundary layer of SAN graft. The dispersed rubbery phase is rubber polymerized from butadiene. Styrene and acrylonitrile are graft-polymerized to the rubber thus forming the boundary layer between the dispersed rubber phase and the continuous glassy matrix.


Properties of ABS Polymers

The acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene ratios along with two other factors are important in determining the properties of ABS polymers. First, it is not a homogeneous mixture and consists of a dispersed phase. Second, the dispersed phase always consists of both rubber and occlusions of the SAN matrix within the rubber. Its outstanding material qualities made ABS become one of the most popular plastics materials and an essential element in everyday life. Here are some general properties listed below of the ABS polymers.

  • Flexible design
  • Excellent surface quality
  • Brilliant and deep colors
  • Attractive feel and touch
  • Dimensional stability
  • Chemical resistance
  • Impact resistance

Thus, changing the proportions of its components ABS can be prepared in different grades. Two major categories could be ABS for extrusion and ABS for injection moldings, then high and medium impact resistance. Generally, ABS would have useful characteristics within a temperature range from −20 to 80 °C (−4 to 176 °F).

Muhammad Rehan Ashraf

I am a Textile Engineer, founder and editor of "Textile Trendz". Currently working in an export-oriented textile organization. I love to share my knowledge about textiles.