The chemestry behind a ball pen

If you pick up 10 random people at a busy street intersection, it is very likely that more than 6 of them would be carrying a pen in their pockets. Yes, even in this age when so much of written communication happens through computers or smartphones, pens still have their utility. And of those 6 people we mentioned above, more than 5 would be likely to carry a ball pen. The ball pen has indeed endured in popularity in spite of a number of alternatives now being available. But have you ever thought about the chemistry that lies inside each ball pen? If not, then this blog aims to talk about exactly that.

There are hundreds of small and big companies around the world which manufacture a variety of ball pens. But almost all of those ball pens usually have five parts – cap, barrel, ink tube, ballpoint and the writing tip. Let us understand each part separately.

Cap and tube – Because these two parts are made of the same material usually, therefore I have listed them together here. These two parts of a typical ball pen are usually made of polypropylene, which is an environmentally friendly recyclable plastic. This material is also resistant to impact, and hence protects the ink and barrel inside.

Barrel – This also is made of plastic, but usually the plastic used is polystyrene. This is a cheaper variant, and is not really environmentally friendly. Usually it is made of clear plastic, so that the user of the pen can see the level of ink remaining inside the pen.

Ballpoint – This is not only the most important part of the pen, but the pen is also named after this part. It is usually made of tungsten carbide, although steel or brass are also used sometimes.

Writing tip – This is usually made of brass, which is an alloy of zinc and copper.

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