Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is a thermoplastic made from the monomer ethylene. It was the first grade of polyethylene, using a high-pressure process via free radical polymerization. Its manufacture employs the same method today.
LDPE is defined by a density range of 0.910–0.940 g/cm3. It is not reactive at room temperatures, except by strong oxidizing agents, and some solvents cause swelling. It can withstand temperatures of 80 °C continuously and 95 °C for a short time. Made in translucent or opaque variations, it is quite flexible and tough.
LDPE has more branching (on about 2% of the carbon atoms) than HDPE, so its intermolecular forces (instantaneous-dipole induced-dipole attraction) are weaker, its tensile strength is lower, and its resilience is higher. Also, because its molecules are less tightly packed and less crystalline due to the side branches, its density is lower.
LDPE is widely used for manufacturing various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, plastic bags for computer components, and various molded laboratory equipment. Its most common use is in plastic bags.