Melt flow index or MFI is a measure of the ease of flow of the melt of a thermoplastic polymer. It is defined as the mass of polymer, in grams, flowing in ten minutes through a capillary of a specific diameter and length by a pressure applied via prescribed alternative gravimetric weights for alternative prescribed temperatures. The method is described in the similar standards ASTM D1238 and ISO 1133.
Melt flow rate is an indirect measure of molecular weight, with high melt flow rate corresponding to low molecular weight. At the same time, melt flow rate is a measure of the ability of the material’s melt to flow under pressure. Melt flow rate is inversely proportional to viscosity of the melt at the conditions of the test, though it should be borne in mind that the viscosity for any such material depends on the applied force. Ratios between two melt flow rate values for one material at different gravimetric weights are often used as a measure for the broadness of the molecular weight distribution.
Melt flow rate is very commonly used for polyolefins, polyethylene being measured at 190°C and polypropylene at 230°C. The plastics converter should choose a material with a melt index so high that he can easily form the polymer in the molten state into the article intended, but on the other hand so low that the mechanical strength of the final article will be sufficient for its use.