Polymers - everything you were ashamed to ask

Polymer is a very common type of material that manifests itself both as a natural material and as an artificial material. Chemically, a polymer is a material based on huge molecules, which are chains of repeating units called “monomers”. Polymers have wide implications for everyday life and industry, they are studied in various fields of science, including in the field known as polymer chemistry and in the world of chemical engineering, so the knowledge about them is only being built up. If so, what exactly is a polymer, what is it used for and what are its important properties? Here are all the answers.

What is a polymer?

A polymer is a very complex chemical substance. Here are some points that will help make a “quick introduction”:

  • A material that we are all already familiar with – we are actually very familiar with this material from everyday life, in its use in many products, especially in plastic-based products.
  • The historical turning point – even though polymers are common today both as a natural material and as an artificial material, they were almost unknown until 1844. In this year, a patent was registered for a process called valkanization, in the context of tire production (that is, polymers in the rubber industry).
  • Continuous development – over the years, various developments in research have deepened our understanding of polymers and what can be done with them in practice in production. Over time it became clear that this is a material with special properties and with great potential for practical uses. It turned out, for example, that the chain length of polymers affects their properties and this is not a normal thing.

polymers in our lives

The polymers are reflected in the division into two main categories:

Natural polymers

Polymers that are widely found in nature as a common biological building material. A very prominent example of this is provided by DNA, which is also based on polymers. From this it is understood how central this material is not only to man but to the living world in general.

synthetic polymers

There are artificial or synthetic polymers and semi-artificial or semi-synthetic polymers. The semi-synthetic type is artificially produced from natural ingredients, for example cellulose (cellulose). What do we do with the artificial material we received? You may not have asked yourself what makes up plastic , but in practice plastic is a material that consists of several materials, with polymers being the main component of plastic. So this material is expressed mainly in plastic of its types, but also in other materials such as rubber and nylon. Similarly, it is expressed in many types of products such as paints and plastic bags.

Properties of polymers

After we have basically understood what polymers are, it is important to understand that they are a type of material that is very diverse in properties. If it is artificial polymers, they are produced in quite different ways depending on the requirements of the material to be obtained, in a process known as polymerization. The resulting artificial polymer can be used after production as a raw material for further processing. Additional materials are usually added to the artificial polymers as needed, such as materials designed to add strength or coloring materials (of course, the material may also be transparent as needed). In the end, one of several common types of plastic is obtained. Here are some notable examples:

  • PVC – polyvinyl chloride is a suitable plastic when you want a combination of low weight, high durability and a cheap price.
  • PP – Polypropylene is the name for a special type of plastic that excels in high resistance to heat and chemicals.
  • LDPE – low density polyethylene is a very important type of plastic, since it is suitable for use that requires contact with food.

Processing the plastic in the dedicated department at a supplier that specializes in this, could lead to the creation of a wide range of high-quality plastic products. Plastic is also a “plastic” material – a term that implies the convenient ability to process it. Indeed, the polymer-based plastic can be processed in many ways, including creating shapes by injecting liquid plastic, various machining operations on the resulting shape, coloring it in different ways and even printing on it.

Common questions

In a concise definition, a polymer is a common type of basic materials seen both in nature and as an artificial material.

The synthetic polymers allow maximum and rich control over the properties of the material they create. In this way, they significantly expand the practical possibilities of using polymers.

The main division of polymer types is according to source – natural or artificial. A secondary division is according to the monomers – whether they are of one type or of several types of monomers. There are also other division approaches such as the reaction of the polymers to heat, their mechanical behavior, their degree of crystallinity, their central chemical group as well as the way the polymer is produced.

In conclusion

The status of polymers as a central component in the production of plastics will probably keep them as a very important material in the world of production even in the foreseeable future. Also, the versatility of the options they offer is a basis for ongoing research, so it is likely that we will also see quite a few innovations, around this excellent material and its use.

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