Jose Carey-Smith, of Ilam School, asks :-

How is acrylic made?

Alan Happer, an organic chemist at the University of Canterbury, responded.

There is really no such thing as an "acrylic", but the word is often used to describe a number of different plastics that are made from chemicals that are closely related to a substance called acrylic acid. These materials have different properties depending on what else is present in the plastic. Sheets of acrylic plastic are clear like glass, but unlike glass are not easily broken. This means that they can be used instead of glass in places where glass, although cheaper, might be easily broken. For example, shower doors. In spectacles that have plastic lenses, the lenses are made form acrylic plastic.

Slightly different acrylic plastics are also used in house paints, and a closely related substance (polyacrylonitrile) is often used instead of wool in sweaters, mainly because it is cheaper and it does not shrink. (Polylacrylonitrile is in fact often wrongly referred to as "acrylic").