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Polymer Chemistry

Introduction to polymer
Lecture 1
1. Introduction to polymer
1.1. Definitions and types of polymeric
1.2. Classifications of polymers
1.2.1. Natural and Synthetic polymers
1.2.2. Linear, Branched and network
1.2.3. Homo and Copolymers
1. Introduction to polymer chemistry
The word polymer is
commonly understood to
mean a large molecule
composed of repeating units,
or mers, connected by
covalent bonds .
The word polymer is derived
from classical Greek poly
meaning many and meres
meaning parts. Thus a
polymer is a large molecule
(macromolecule) built up by
the repetition of small
chemical units.
polymer - a large molecule consisting of
a number of repeating units, with
molecular weight typically several
thousand or higher
repeat unit - the fundamental recurring
unit of a polymer.
monomer - the smaller molecule(s) that
are used to prepare a polymer (may or
may not be equivalent to the repeat
unit). It combines with other molecules
of the same or different type to form a
A short polymer chain that consists of several
repeating units of a monomer, but not large
enough to be considered a polymer is an
An oligomer is a low molecular-weight polymer.
A species will be called polymeric if articles
made from it have a significant mechanical
strength and oligomeric if such articles are not
strong enough to be practically useful. The
distinction between the sizes of oligomers and
the corresponding polymers is left vague,
however, because there is no sharp transition
in most properties of interest.
The word macromolecule is a
synonym for polymer.
Classifications of polymers

Polymers can be classified in many

different ways. The most obvious
classification is based on the origin of
the polymer, i.e., natural vs. synthetic.
Other classification are based on the
polymer structure, polymerization
mechanism, thermal behavior, physical
properties, or Molecular force and many.
1.2.1. Natural and Synthetic polymers
(Classification Based on Source)

Natural Polymers: These polymers are found in

plants and animals. Examples are proteins,
cellulose, starch, resins and rubber.
Semi-synthetic Polymers: derived form natural
polymers by means of chemical modification.
Vulcanized rubber, Cellulose derivatives as, Gun
cotton (cellulose nitrite), and cellulose diacetate
(rayon) is used in makingthreads, films,
Synthetic Polymers: A variety of synthetic
polymers as plastic, synthetic fibers and synthetic
rubbers are examples of man-made polymers.
Classification Based on Backbone of
the polymer chain: Organic and
Inorganic Polymers
A polymer whose backbone chain is
essentially made of carbon atoms is
termed as organic polymer, the
majority of synthetic polymers are
On the other hand, generally chain
backbone contains no carbon atom is
called inorganic polymers. Glass
and silicone rubber are examples of it
1.2.2. Linear, Branched and
network polymers
(Classification Based on Structure of
Polymers can be linear or branched
(containing side chains) and may be
cross-linked, linking one chain with
Linear Polymers: These polymers consist of long and
straight chains. The examples are high density
polythene, PVC, etc. Linear polymers are commonly
relatively soft, often rubbery substances, and often
likely to soften (or melt) on heating and to dissolve in
certain solvent
Branched Polymers: These polymers contain linear
chains having some branches, e.g., low density
Cross-linked Polymers: These are usually formed from
bi-functional and tri-functional monomers and contain
strong covalent bonds between various linear
polymer chains, e.g. vulcanized rubber, urea-
formaldehyde resins, etc. Cross linked polymers are
hard and do not melt, soften or dissolve in most
1.2.3. Homo and Copolymers
(Classification Based on Composition of
Homopolymer: A polymer resulting
from the polymerization of a single
type monomer; a polymer consisting
substantially of a single type of
repeating unit
Copolymer: When two different types
of monomers are joined in the same
polymer chain, the polymer is called
a copolymer.
Copolymerization: A copolymer is a polymer derived from
two (or more) monomeric species, as opposed to a
homopolymer where only one monomer is used.
Copolymerization refers to methods used to chemically
synthesize a copolymer. Commercially relevant copolymers
include ABS plastic, Nitrile rubber, styrene-acrylonitrile,
styrene-isoprene-styrene (SIS) and ethylene-vinyl acetate.
In an alternating copolymer, the two monomers are
arranged in an alternating fashion.
In a random copolymer, the two monomers may
following any order .
In a block copolymer, all of one type of monomers are
grouped together, and all of the other are grouped together
In graft copolymer, a block copolymer can be thought of as
two homopolymers joined together at the ends: branched
copolymers with one kind of monomers in their main chain
and another kind of monomers in their side chains.
The composition and arrangement of
the different monomers in a
copolymer strongly influences its
physico-chemical properties.