We are using the term "Industrial Polymers" to refer to polymers [plastics] that are produced by the ton or (in the case of films) by the mile. For example, in descending order of world-wide use (tonnage), the top eight of these polymers are polyethylene (PE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP), styrene polymers (including polystyrene - PS, and acrylonitrile-butadienestyrene/ styrene-acrylonitrile - ABS/SAN), polyesters (PETP), polyurethane (PU), phenolics and aminoplastics.
Industrial polymers, which have been produced by the millions of tons for the last five decades and are of obvious social and economic importance, have been exhaustively characterized. Structural features which affect physical properties and indicate process variables have been studied by many techniques other than microscopy (x-ray diffraction, thermal analysis, rheology, chromatographies, etc.). Microscopy techniques for polymer characterization have been well documented. Our motivation to apply field emission (high resolution) scanning electron microscopy to the study of polymers is: (1) The application of low voltage, high resolution SEM to biological materials is well characterized.