Science Articles

POLYMER – WHAT ARE THE PROPERTIES AND TYPES?

Polymers are large molecules or macromolecules that are composed of many repeated subunits. They have a large and broad range of properties, which make synthetic and natural polymers as essential component in everyday life. Polymers range from synthetic plastics like polystyrene to natural biopolymers like DNA. Polymerization of small molecules i.e. monomers is the reason for creation of natural and synthetic polymers.


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Polymers are large molecules or macromolecules that are composed of many repeated subunits. They have a large and broad range of properties, which make synthetic and natural polymers as essential component in everyday life. Polymers range from synthetic plastics like polystyrene to natural biopolymers like DNA. Polymerization of small molecules i.e. monomers is the reason for creation of natural and synthetic polymers.

Polymer is a chemical compound in which the molecules are bind together in long repeated chains. Polymers have unique properties which can be tailored according to their intended purpose.

Polymers are studied in the field of biophysics, macromolecular science, and polymer science. Polymers are man-made and natural occurring. Both types of polymers exhibit elastic properties along with a wide range of additional useful properties. Depending on their desired use, polymers can be tuned for leveraging the advantageous property.

PROPERTIES OF POLYMERS

  • Reflective
  • Tough
  • Impact resistant
  • Translucent
  • Brittle
  • Soft
  • Malleable
  • Insulative
  • Elastic
  • Inelastic

Microstructure describes the arrangement of the constituent monomers within the polymer at a sale of the single chain. These structural properties determine the bulk physical properties of a polymer which is essential in determining how a polymer behaves as a continuous macroscopic material. Chemical properties describes the interaction of chains through various physical forces.

POLYMERIZATION

This is a process through which a synthetic polymer is created by combining various small monomer molecules into a chain held together by the covalent bonds. The two major types of polymerization are step growth polymerization and chain growth polymerization.

The major difference between the two types is that in the chain growth polymerization, the monomer molecules are added to the chain one at a time while in the case of step-growth polymerization, the monomer molecules bond directly with the one another.

The bonds between the molecules and the polymer chains can be broken and also re-attached. Cross-linked polymers cannot be re-bonded after the cross-linked bond that exists between the molecules is broken. Cross-linked polymers exhibit advantageous and desired properties like high strength, thermal properties, rigidity and hardness.

TYPES OF POLYMERS

There are two types of polymers-

  • Natural polymers- these occur naturally like amber, wool, silk, shellac, natural rubber.
  • Synthetic polymers- these are made by man and includes synthetic rubber, polystyrene, polyethylene, nylon, neoprene, PVB, silicone etc.

The continuously linked backbone of the polymer is commonly used for the preparation of the plastics consisting mainly of carbon atoms. However, other structures also exist.