What Is A Polymer?

What Is A Polymer?


Rolf Keegan

A polymer is a term commonly applied to man-made plastics and composites. In actuality, this is a misconception as polymers are not limited to man-made materials, and are also naturally occurring. A polymer is a synthetic or natural chemical compound which is constructed of molecules that are bonded together in long repeating chains. The main benefit of using polymers is that they can be easily tailored to a variety of purposes due to their unique malleable properties.

What are polymers composed of?

Polymers encompass a wide range of natural and synthetic compounds, with a wide range of properties. All polymers are created through a mixture of compounds which are link together creating in repeating substructures. This creates a long repeating chain of molecules.

What are natural polymers?


Common examples of natural polymers include materials such as wool, silk and rubber. Natural polymers are produced by living organisms such as the silk worm. They are materials which are made up of raw natural materials such as protein, carbohydrates and lipids. Hair and nails are in actuality natural polymers, as are shells.

What are man-made/synthetic polymers?

Man-made or synthetic polymers are constructed from chemical human-made materials. Synthetic polymers are most commonly classified into four main categories: thermosets, thermoplastics, elastomers and synthetic fibers. With synthetic polymers the molecule construction is the same as for natural polymers; it is only the material composition that differs. Synthetic polymers cover a wide range of materials and uses, such as fabrics (nylon, elastic and viscose), house-hold appliances such as Teflon non-stick pans, and a vast array of plastics and rubbers. One very important difference between synthetic polymers and natural polymers is that synthetic polymers are most often non-biodegradable. Although today, many can be recycled reducing the negative environmental impact upon the earth.

What are the benefits of polymers?

Polymers are extremely useful and can be tailored for almost any purpose. The process of polymerization is extremely complex and unique. Polymers are durable and can be formed into a variety of shapes and used for a variety of purposes. Most polymers are also safe and non-toxic making them excellent materials for using in cookware, storage containers and for children\’s toys.

What are the negative of polymers?

The negative aspect of polymers mainly lies within the process of creating synthetic polymers. Synthetic polymers are manufactured from hydrocarbons derived from crude oil. The process of creating synthetic polymers has a negative effect on the environment as consumes a large portion of dwindling supplies of crude oil. They are also normally non-biodegradable, creating a negative impact on the environment. According to scientists it is estimated that a single plastic bag could take as much as 500 years to fully break down, and when you consider how many are thrown away on a daily basis, it creates a shocking image. Synthetic polymer materials are used in many disposable products, meaning they end up discarded and being sent to landfills. However, there is now thankfully a greater awareness about the negative impact synthetic polymers is having upon the environment, and more and more people are taking care to recycling their synthetic polymer waste.

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