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Synthetic Polymers

Synthetic polymers

INTRODUCTION
Present day life cannot be imagined without polymers. These play same role in modern civilization
as is played by the skeletal system in our body. Polymers are the molecules which made life and
propagation of life possible on earth. Hence their importance is equal to the importance of water on
earth. They have affected almost all spheres of life. Important areas where we see them playing their
role are household goods (buckets, cups, saucers etc.), clothes, furniture, automobiles (tyres, gears and
seals), space aircrafts, lubricants, insulating materials, packing materials, paints, varnishes, biochemical,
surgical materials (bandages, artificial limbs etc.).
The word polymer is combination of two Greek words i.e. poly meaning many and meros meaning
parts. This means any molecule consisting of a very large number of simple structural units joined
together through covalent bonds in a regular fashion can be called as polymer. The simple structural
units which combine together to form polymers are called monomers. The process by which monomers
join to form polymer is called polymerization. Since polymers comprise of a very large number of
monomers they have a very large size and very large molecular weight. Polymers can be understood by
considering the example of a garland (made by combining a large number of flowers) or a necklace
(formed by combining a large number of pearls or beads).
Thus, polymers can be defined as macromolecules having very high molecular weights and
comprising of a large number of one or more types of small repeating units (from monomers). For
example, polythene

CH2

CH2

is a widely used polymer which is obtained by polymerization of

the monomer, ethylene or ethene (CH2 = CH2).


Most of the times polymers possess very long chains whose both the ends are different. For
example, in case of polythene, these end groups are CH3CH2-(ethyl) and ethenyl (CH=CH2) groups.
Thus, polythene maybe completely represented as CH3CH2

CH2

CH2

CH

CH2 .

What type of ends a polymer will have depends upon the method of preparation of the polymers.
The ends are known with certainty only in case of few polymers. If the ends are not known with
certainty we do not write them.
The number of monomeric units combining to form a polymer is known as degree of
polymerization. In case of most of the polymers we are also not aware of exact number of monomeric
units (degree of polymerization) combining together. Therefore, polymers are written in terms of the
repeating monomeric units only, i.e.,

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CH2

CH2

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