Acrylic is a generic term for chemical substances, which are characterised by the acrylic group (CH2=CH–COR) (e.g. acrylic acid or acrylic-acid ester) or polymers of these substances. The term is derived from the Latin word acer "sharp" or Greek ákros "tip" due to the sharp, pungent odour of acrylic acid.

Polymers of acrylic-acid ester, generally called (poly)acrylates, are used, among other things, as binders for paints and varnishes, injection mould compounds, adhesives and as material used in the dental sector.

Due to their physical properties (fast-drying and colourfast), dispersions of acrylic polymers are used with dyes and water as acrylic paints.

Unsaturated acrylates are the main components in radiation-cured paints, varnishes and adhesives (radiation curing). Chemical cross-linking, polymerisation, takes place via the acrylic acid group. This type of paint is mainly used in industry.

Acrylic paints for DIY use contain saturated polyacrylates, which are either dissolved in organic solvents or – more environmentally friendly – exist as a dispersion in water.


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