The literature on the effects of radiation on the properties of various polymers and composites has been briefly reviewed for the purpose of identifying polymeric materials that could be irradiated to improve their performance. Radiation treatment of polymers may lead to cross-linking or chain scission reactions, depending on the chemical nature of the polymer. Cross-linking generally leads to an improvement in the mechanical properties of the polymer. Chain scission leads to deterioration in mechanical properties.
The properties of irradiated polymers also depend on the degree of polymer crystallinity and the irradiation conditions, including dose rate and the presence of oxygen, cross-linking agents and other additives. A 30% increase in the tensile strength of many polymers may be obtained by radiation cross-linking under appropriate conditions.