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Polymer engineering is generally an engineering field that designs,
analyses, and/or modifies polymer materials. Polymer engineering
covers aspects of petrochemical industry, polymerization, structure
and characterization of polymers, properties of polymers,
compounding and processing of polymers and description of major
polymers, structure property relations and applications. The basic
division of polymers into thermoplastics and thermosets helps
define their areas of application. The latter group of materials
includes phenolic resins, polyesters and epoxy resins, all of which
are used widely in composite materials when reinforced with stiff
fibres such as fibreglass and aramids. Since crosslinking
stabilises the thermosetting matrix of these materials, they have
physical properties more similar to traditional engineering
materials like steel. However, their very much lower densities
compared with metals makes them ideal for lightweight structures.
In addition, they suffer less from fatigue, so are ideal for
safety-critical parts which are stressed regularly in service.