Unless you are an expert in chemistry, the true importance of polymers and just how valuable they are to humanity may not be clear. Until now.
What Exactly Are Polymers?
The word ‘polymer’ originates from the Greek translation of ‘many parts’, and polymers are made from parts called monomers (‘one part’ in Greek).
Polymers can be both natural and manmade. Examples of the former include proteins in the human body and materials such as wool and silk, and the latter being anything from nylon running shoes to non-stick Teflon pans.
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Polymers in Science
Polymers are a crucial and fundamental part of science and are exceedingly significant in chemistry, physics, and even engineering. Polymer science can be broken down into three subcategories: macromolecular chemistry, polymer physics, and polymer characterization.
Macromolecular chemistry is fundamentally the study of the chemical, physical, and biological structures, properties, reaction mechanisms, and composition of macromolecules.
Macromolecules are molecules that consist of one or more different types of repetitive building blocks, also known as polymers.
Polymer physics is the breaking down and re-assembly of units and variations in structure and properties resulting from different and controlled environmental parameters, and polymer characterization is, in essence, the analytical side of polymer science with the ever-present aim of improving how separate polymer materials perform.
Polymers in Technology
Polymer technology research has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years and sparked a surge in polymer-based substances being used in building materials, packing materials, electrical engineering, communications, the automobile industry, and airplanes. Polymer technology has truly advanced the world we live in and continues to inspire, educate, and excite scientists and technicians alike.
Polymers in Everyday Objects
It is truly astounding just how many objects used in daily life consist of polymers, from water bottles, the silicon tips on the ends of earphones, and the rubber in the tires on your car. Not only that but polymers are found in the human body as well, from the keratin in your hair and nails to the actual DNA in your cells.
Other examples of everyday objects which are classified as polymers or made using polymers include contact lenses, plasters, false teeth, tampons, and swimming goggles.
Organic and Natural Polymers
Polymers are frankly fundamental to all living organisms, from plants and animals to the human race itself, and the world could not exist in the manner it does today without these vital and fascinating structures.
Examples of natural polymers, which were used for their chemical properties long before they were properly understood by chemists and scholars, include tortoiseshell, cellulose, potato starch, tar, wool, silk, and natural rubber and lacquer from trees.
There are seven principle types of synthetic organic polymers:
IV. Thermoplastic Polyurethane
V. Low Density Polyethylene
VI. High Density Polyethylene