What Are Polymers?

Most kinds of plastics are made up of polymers. From water bottles to stethoscopes, they are all comprised of polymers. While these materials can have different properties depending on their molecules and how they’re bonded, every type of plastic is composed of polymers. But what exactly are polymers? Here we discuss everything you need to know:

Definition

Polymers are long chains of repeating molecules (or monomers) bonded together. They can be human-made or natural. Of course, plastic is a human-made polymer, but rubber or shellac are both naturally occurring polymers. Depending on the type of molecules, polymers can be either soft and flexible or rigid and tough.

Polymer Properties

Again, depending on the molecules, polymers can have different properties. It’s how both glass and plastic bags can be made up of polymers. While some polymers can be durable and flexible, others are rigid and brittle. The polymers that make up many plastics fall in the former category. They are elastic, impact-resistant, and versatile. It’s why plastic has been used for so many applications, ranging from bags to medical equipment.

How Polymers Are Made

So, how are polymers made in the first place? How do monomer bond together to help form what will eventually be plastic? The process for this is called polymerization. There are two types of polymerization: addition reactions and condensation reactions. Both have the same end-product—a polymer with bonded monomers—but how they do it differs. With addition reaction, monomers link together thanks to a catalyst; with condensation reactions, they fuse together by removing water molecules.

To learn more about polymers and the process of how plastics are made, contact Piper Plastics today.

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