Polystyrene (PS) is a synthetic aromatic polymer made from the monomer styrene. Polystyrene can be solid or foamed. General-purpose polystyrene is clear, hard, and rather brittle. It is an inexpensive resin per unit weight. It is a rather poor barrier to oxygen and water vapor and has a relatively low melting point. Polystyrene is one of the most widely used plastics, the scale of its production being several billion kilograms per year.
Polystyrene foams are produced using blowing agents that form bubbles and expand the foam. In expanded polystyrene, these are usually hydrocarbons such as pentane, which may pose a flammability hazard in manufacturing or storage of newly manufactured material, but have relatively mild environmental impact. Extruded polystyrene is usually made with hydro fluorocarbons (HFC-134a) which have global warming potentials of approximately 1000–1300 times that of carbon dioxide.
Polystyrene is commonly injection molded, vacuum formed, or extruded, while expanded polystyrene is either extruded or molded in a special process. Polystyrene copolymers are also produced; these contain one or more other monomers in addition to styrene. In recent years the expanded polystyrene composites with cellulose and starch have also been produced. Polystyrene is used in some polymer-bonded explosives