Difference Between Styrene and Polystyrene

Main Difference – Styrene vs Polystyrene

Styrene and polystyrene are closely related compounds that are used in a wide range of applications. Styrene is the monomer of the polystyrene, which is a well-known thermoplastic polymer. In addition to the production of polystyrene, styrene is also used in the production of elastomers, thermosetting resins, polymer dispersions, etc. The demand for the styrene and polystyrene is increasing very rapidly owing to their excellent properties and the wide range of applications. The main difference between styrene and polystyrene is that the styrene is a monomer, whereas polystyrene is a polymer. More differences between styrene and polystyrene are elaborated in this article.

This article discusses,

1. What is Styrene?
     – Characteristics, Properties, Applications

2. What is Polystyrene?
     – Characteristics, Properties, Applications

3. What is the difference between Styrene and Polystyrene?

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What is Styrene

Styrene is an important raw material in various polymer products. It is one of the oldest vinyl compounds and the industrial exploitation of this compound started in the late 1920s. However, the compound was first isolated as early as 1839 by a German chemist called Edward Simon. The chemical name of styrene is vinyl benzene. It is an aromatic monomer with a benzene ring attached to C=C double bond. Styrene is produced from ethyl benzene in commercial scale. It can be polymerized by using solvent, bulk, emulsion, or suspension polymerization techniques. During this reaction, organic peroxides are used as catalysts to increase the rate of reaction.

Out of the total production of styrene, about 50% is used to produce polystyrene, about 20% to elastomers, polymer dispersions and thermosetting resins, 15% to produce ABS and SAN copolymers, 10% in expanded polystyrene (EPS), and the rest is for the production of various copolymers and specialty materials. The capacity of styrene production largely depends on the demand for the above-mentioned polymers.

Difference Between Styrene and Polystyrene

Polymerization of styrene monomer to produce polystyrene

What is Polystyrene

Polystyrene was among the most important plastics used during World War II. The initial development of commercial production of polystyrene occurred in Germany and United states in the late 1920s. Polystyrene is an amorphous thermoplastic, produced by the bulk polymerization of styrene monomer. It is an inexpensive, transparent, rigid, easily molded polymer and possesses excellent electrical and moisture resistance. Physical properties of polystyrene depend on the processing, molecular mass distribution and nature of additives.

The common applications of polystyrene include electrical insulation parts, blister packages, wall tile, lenses, bottle caps, small jars, containers of all kinds, vacuum-formed refrigerator liners, and transparent display boxes. In addition, polystyrene forms (regiform) are widely used as a food-packaging material. Polystyrene is also used to produced toys and model kits, inexpensive dishes, utensils, and glasses. Thermal distortion of polystyrene occurs when it is exposed to about 65 °C temperature for a long time.

Key Difference - Styrene vs Polystyrene

Polystyrene packaging

Difference Between Styrene and Polystyrene


Styrene is the monomer of polystyrene.

Polystyrene is produced by the polymerization of styrene monomer.


Styrene is produced by the dehydrogenation of ethyl benzene.

Polystyrene is produced by the bulk polymerization of styrene monomer.


Styrene is used for the production of polystyrene, elastomers, polymer dispersions and thermosetting resins, ABS and SAN copolymers, expanded polystyrene (EPS), and specialty materials.

Polystyrene is used for the production of electrical insulation parts, blister packages, wall tile, lenses, bottle caps, small jars, containers of all kinds, vacuum-formed refrigerator liners, transparent display boxes, food packaging material, toys and model kits, and inexpensive dishes, utensils and glasses


Lokensgard, E. (2014). Industrial plastics: Theory and applications. Place of publication not identified: Delmar Cengage Learning.
Sullivan, J. B., & Krieger, G. R. (Eds.). (2001). Clinical environmental health and toxic exposures. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Wünsch, J. R. (2000). Polystyrene: Synthesis, production and applications. Shawbury, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Rapra Technology.
Image Courtesy: 

“Polystyrenpolymerisation” By Polystyrol.png:Dubajderivative work: Monarch (talk) – Polystyrol.png, (Public Domain) via

“Polistirolo” By Phyrexian – Own work via


About the Author: Yashoda

Yashoda has been a freelance writer in the field of biology for about four years. He is an expert in conducting research related to polymer chemistry and nano-technology. He holds a B.Sc. (Hons) degree in Applied Science and a Master of Science degree in Industrial Chemistry.

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