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    Understanding Polymers: Classification, Properties And Applications

    By Sumit Saini
    16 Nov'22  5 min read
    Understanding Polymers: Classification, Properties And Applications
    Synopsis

    Polymers are formed by the aggregation of multiple small molecules known as monomers. Polymers are found all around us in the form of nature as well as synthetic polymers. In this article, we discuss polymers as it is an important topic for competitive exams like entrance exams like JEE-Mains and NEET.

    Understanding Polymers: Classification, Properties And Applications
    Synopsis

    Polymers are formed by the aggregation of multiple small molecules known as monomers. Polymers are found all around us in the form of nature as well as synthetic polymers. In this article, we discuss polymers as it is an important topic for competitive exams like entrance exams like JEE-Mains and NEET.

    Polymer refers to the aggregation of many subunits to form a molecule with desired physical and chemical properties. Polymers are very large molecules, called macromolecules which are formed by aggregation of many small molecules known as monomers. Presence of polymers can be found all around us. Polymers are natural as well as synthetic in nature. Natural polymers can be found in a DNA strand and polypropylene is a common example of the synthetic polymers.

    Polymers are formed by the process of polymerisation in which the monomers join together to form polymeric chains which can be 2-Dimensional or 3-Dimensional structures.

    Various polymers and their properties have been discussed in Chapter 15 of Class 12 NCERT, Chemistry book. Every year at least one question from polymers is asked in the board exam and it is important for competitive exams like JEE-Mains and NEET where questions based on monomers and their applications are asked.

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    In this article we will discuss more about the polymers and their applications in daily life.

    Classification of Polymers

    Polymers have complex structures and properties, hence their classification becomes important. They can be classified on the basis of multiple factors which are as follows

    Based on Source of Availability

    On the basis of Source of Availability, polymers are classified as:

    Natural Polymers: Polymers which are found naturally in plants and animals are known as natural polymers. For example, cellulose, starch, and strands of DNA are natural polymers.

    Synthetic Polymers: Synthetic polymers are also called man made polymers. The most common examples of synthetic polymers are plastic, nylon-6,6, polyester and many more.

    Based on Structure of Monomer Chain

    Polymers are also classified on the basis of the Structure of the Monomer Chain.

    Linear Polymers: Linear polymers are structures having long and straight chains without any branches. PVC i.e Polyvinyl Chloride is one such example in which large straight chains are bound together and used to make pipes and other materials.

    Branched-chain Polymers: Branched Chain Polymers are those which have branches associated with the linear chains in their structure. Most common example of branched chain polymer is low-density polythene which has Cross-linked chains. Low density is caused due to free spacing between the chains which is formed by the cross links.

    Based on Method of Polymerisation

    On the basis of polymerisation method, Two types of Polymers are found which are:

    Addition Polymerisation: Polymerisation in which two or more than two molecules react together to form the polymer chain without loss of any byproduct. Most common types of addition polymers are Polyethene and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

    Condensation Polymerisation: Polymerisation process in which a byproduct is formed while chemical reaction takes place. For example Nylon -6, 6, perylene.

    Based on the Molecular Forces between chains

    Elastomers: Elastomers are the polymers in which elastic force of Interaction is present between the monomeric chains. Most common type of elastomer is rubber.

    Thermoplastics: Thermoplastics are the polymers in which the force of interaction is intermediate in nature. PVC is an example of thermodynamics. Thermoplastics have low tensile strength and low melting point.

    Thermosetting polymers: Polymers which provide chemical and heat resistance greatly improve the material’s mechanical properties. It provides enhanced chemical and heat resistance. For example, phenolics, epoxies, and silicones. Thermosetting plastics have high melting points and high tensile strength.

    Apart from the above classification of the polymers, another important classification is on the basis of biodegradability of polymers which is discussed below.

    Biodegradable Polymers

    Polymers which can be degraded by the microorganisms like fungi and bacteria known as the biodegradable polymers. Biodegradable polymers are important from the environmental pollution point of view. Surgical bandages, capsules etc. examples of biodegradable polymers.

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    Non Biodegradable Polymers

    Polymers which are not degraded by the microorganisms are known as non- biodegradable polymers. Polyethylene is one of the most important non biodegradable polymers.

    Polymers are used heavily in our daily lives. Natural as well as synthetic fibers are present all around us which makes our life easier. Let us discuss some of the most prominent polymers and their applications in various fields with the help of the below table.

    Table: Polymers and their applications

    Polymer

    Monomer

    Application of Polymer

    Rubber

    Isoprene (1, 2-methyl 1 – 1, 3-butadiene)

    Rubber is used widely in making the elastic materials, tyres of automobiles, medical devices, other automobile parts and many more applications can be found.

    Teflon

    Tetra Fluoro Ethane

    Teflon is generally black in color and has applications in Non-stick cookware, making waterproof fabric, coating of medical appliances etc.

    Terylene

    (a) Ethylene glycol (b) Terephthalic acid

    Terylene fabric is used as polyester tricot knit in the fashion garments, used for making plastic bottles, sheets, ropes, raincoats, fleece jackets etc.

    Bakelite

    (a) Phenol (b) Formaldehyde

    Bakelite is used as electrical insulators in plastic switches, manufacture of buckets, kitchenware, pipes, children toys etc.

    PVC

    Vinyl Cyanide

    PVC is the most widely used Polymer which is used in Tubes, Pipes, automobile parts, healthcare equipment and electronic gadgets among others.

    Melamine Formaldehyde Resin

    (a) Melamine (b) Formaldehyde

    Melamine Formaldehyde Resin is used for automotive surface coating, Ceramic plastic materials.

    Nylon-6

    Caprolactam

    Nylon-6 is used to make fibers to manufacture the carpets, filament yarns, seat belts, tyre cords and other material requiring high mechanical strength.

    Nylon-6,6

    1. adipic acid

    2. hexamethylenediamine

    Nylon-6,6 is used when high mechanical strength, rigidity, good stability under heat and/or chemical resistance are required which involves fibers for textile in carpets etc.

    We have tried to give brief information on polymers and their types and uses in multiple field. With the emergence of technologies, new molding machines, Polymers become widely used raw material for the manufacturing of plastic objects.

    Also Read| What Is The Science Behind A Thunderstorm?

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