What’s resin?

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Resin is a viscous substance that hardens with treatment and is soluble in alcohol but not water. It can be natural or synthetic and has many applications from art to polymer manufacturing. Natural resin comes from plants, such as pine sap, and has been used for thousands of years in various products. Synthetic resins are cheaper and more stable than natural ones and are made by combining chemicals in a laboratory. They are used in the manufacture of plastics, paints, and other substances.

Resin is a natural or synthetic compound that starts out in a highly viscous state and hardens with treatment. Typically, it is soluble in alcohol, but not in water. The compound is classified in several ways, depending on its exact chemical composition and potential uses. It also has many applications, ranging from art to polymer manufacturing, and many consumers interact with products containing it on a daily basis.

Natural resin comes from plants. A classic example is pine sap, which has the characteristic sharp odor of terpene compounds. As anyone who has interacted with pine sap knows, the substance is very viscous, but it hardens over time. A number of other plants produce resins and have been used by humans for thousands of years. Some plants give off a similar substance called gum or gummy resin that interacts with water. Rubber tends to be softer and more malleable.

Plant resin can be light to dark brown in color and varies in opacity and hardness. Some are also extremely volatile, as they contain unstable compounds. Misidentification of softwood trees can sometimes lead to unfortunate accidents, as some contain heptanes, which are flammable and potentially explosive hydrocarbons. The popular amber decorative material is fossilized plant resin. It is most often found in a rich golden color, which is a common shade for plant resins, but amber can also be found in rarer colors, such as blue.

Humans have been using natural resins for thousands of years. Pine pitch has been used to seal boats, mummies, food containers, and an assortment of other things. It has also been used as a component in paints, lacquers, inks, perfumes, jewelry and many other items. With human technological advances came the realization that this material could be formulated into polymers, and the discovery of synthetic resins followed soon after.

For the most part, polymers made from “resins” are actually made from synthetic materials, which are cheaper and easier to refine. Even synthetic varieties are much more stable, predictable and uniform than natural ones, as they are produced under controlled conditions without the possibility of introducing impurities. They are made by combining chemicals in a laboratory to stimulate a reaction that leads to the formulation of a resinous compound. Once formed, the substance can be used in the manufacture of plastics, paints, and many of the same substances that natural resin is used in.

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