Polyvinyl chloride, more correctly but unusually poly(vinyl chloride), commonly abbreviated PVC, is the third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, after polyethylene and polypropylene.
PVC comes in two basic forms: rigid (sometimes abbreviated as RPVC) and flexible. The rigid form of PVC is used in construction for pipe and in profile applications such as doors and windows. It is also used for bottles, other non-food packaging, and cards (such as bank or membership cards). It can be made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers, the most widely used beingphthalates. In this form, it is also used in plumbing, electrical cable insulation, imitation leather, signage, inflatable products, and many applications where it replaces rubber.Pure poly (vinyl chloride) is a white, brittle solid. It is insoluble in alcohol but slightly soluble in tetrahydrofuran.
PVC was accidentally synthesized in 1872 by German chemist Eugen Baumann. The polymer appeared as a white solid inside a flask of vinyl chloride that had been left exposed to sunlight. In the early 20th century the Russian chemist Ivan Ostromislensky and Fritz Klatte of the German chemical company Griesheim-Elektron both attempted to use PVC in commercial products, but difficulties in processing the rigid, sometimes brittle polymer thwarted their efforts. Waldo Semon and the B.F. Goodrich Company developed a method in 1926 to plasticize PVC by blending it with various additives. The result was a more flexible and more easily processed material that soon achieved widespread commercial use.
The polymers are linear and are strong. The monomers are mainly arranged head-to-tail, meaning that there are chlorides on alternating carbon centres. PVC has mainly an atactic stereochemistry, which means that the relative stereochemistry of the chloride centres are random. Some degree of syndiotacticity of the chain gives a few percent crystallinity that is influential on the properties of the material. About 57% of the mass of PVC is chlorine. The presence of chloride groups gives the polymer very different properties from the structurally related material polyethylene.