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A polymer (; Greek '' poly-'', "many" + ''
-mer {{Short pages monitor The structure of a polymeric material can be described at different length scales, from the sub-nm length scale up to the macroscopic one. There is in fact a hierarchy of structures, in which each stage provides the foundations for the next one. The starting point for the description of the structure of a polymer is the identity of its constituent monomers. Next, the
microstructure Microstructure is the very small scale structure of a material, defined as the structure of a prepared surface of material as revealed by an optical microscope above 25× magnification. The microstructure of a material (such as Metallography, m ...
essentially describes the arrangement of these monomers within the polymer at the scale of a single chain. The microstructure determines the possibility for the polymer to form phases with different arrangements, for example through
crystallization Crystallization is the process by which solid forms, where the atoms or molecules are highly organized into a Crystal structure, structure known as a crystal. Some ways by which crystals form are Precipitation (chemistry), precipitating fro ...
, the
glass transition The glass–liquid transition, or glass transition, is the gradual and Reversible reaction, reversible transition in amorphous solid, amorphous materials (or in amorphous regions within Crystallinity, semicrystalline materials) from a hard and rela ...
or microphase separation. These features play a major role in determining the physical and chemical properties of a polymer.

## Monomers and repeat units

The identity of the repeat units (monomer residues, also known as "mers") comprising a polymer is its first and most important attribute. Polymer nomenclature is generally based upon the type of monomer residues comprising the polymer. A polymer which contains only a single type of
repeat unit In polymer chemistry, a repeat unit or repeating unit (or mer) is a part of a polymer whose repetition would produce the complete polymer chain (except for the end-groups) by linking the repeat units together successively along the chain, like the ...
is known as a homopolymer, while a polymer containing two or more types of repeat units is known as a
copolymer In polymer chemistry, a copolymer is a polymer derived from more than one species of monomer. The polymerization of monomers into copolymers is called copolymerization. Copolymers obtained from the copolymerization of two monomer species are some ...
. A terpolymer is a copolymer which contains three types of repeat units.
Polystyrene Polystyrene (PS) is a synthetic polymer made from monomers of the Aromatic hydrocarbon, aromatic hydrocarbon styrene. Polystyrene can be solid or foamed. General-purpose polystyrene is clear, hard, and brittle. It is an inexpensive resin pe ...
is composed only of
styrene Styrene () is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. This derivative of benzene is a colorless oily liquid, although aged samples can appear yellowish. The compound evaporates easily and has a sweet smell, although high concen ...
-based repeat units, and is classified as a homopolymer.
Polyethylene terephthalate Polyethylene terephthalate (or poly(ethylene terephthalate), PET, PETE, or the obsolete PETP or PET-P), is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in synthetic fibre, fibres for clothing, packaging, conta ...
, even though produced from two different
monomer In chemistry, a monomer ( ; ''wikt:mono-, mono-'', "one" + ''wikt:-mer, -mer'', "part") is a molecule that can chemical reaction, react together with other monomer molecules to form a larger polymer chain or three-dimensional network in a process ...
s (
ethylene glycol Ethylene glycol (IUPAC nomenclature, IUPAC name: ethane-1,2-diol) is an organic compound (a Vicinal (chemistry), vicinal diol) with the formula . It is mainly used for two purposes, as a raw material in the manufacture of polyester fibers and fo ...
and
terephthalic acid Terephthalic acid is an organic compound In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon-hydrogen or carbon-carbon chemical bond, bonds. Due to carbon's ability to Catenation, catenate (form chains with ...
), is usually regarded as a homopolymer because only one type of repeat unit is formed.
Ethylene-vinyl acetate Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), also known as poly (ethylene-vinyl acetate) (PEVA), is the copolymer In polymer chemistry, a copolymer is a polymer derived from more than one species of monomer. The polymerization of monomers into copolymers is ...
contains more than one variety of repeat unit and is a copolymer. Some biological polymers are composed of a variety of different but structurally related monomer residues; for example,
polynucleotide A polynucleotide molecule is a biopolymer composed of 13 or more nucleotide monomers covalently bonded in a chain. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid) are examples of polynucleotides with distinct biological function. The prefix ...
s such as DNA are composed of four types of
nucleotide Nucleotides are Organic compound, organic molecules consisting of a nucleoside and a phosphate. They serve as monomeric units of the nucleic acid polymers – deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), both of which are essential ...
subunits. : A polymer containing ionizable subunits (e.g., pendant carboxylic groups) is known as a
polyelectrolyte Polyelectrolytes are polymers whose repeating units bear an electrolyte group. Ion#Anions and cations, Polycations and polyanions are polyelectrolytes. These groups dissociation (chemistry), dissociate in aqueous solutions (water), making the pol ...
or
ionomer An ionomer () (''wikt:iono-, iono-'' + ''wikt:-mer, -mer'') is a polymer composed of repeat units of both electric charge, electrically neutral repeating units and ionized units covalently bonded to the polymer backbone as pendant group Functional_ ...
, when the fraction of ionizable units is large or small respectively.

## Microstructure

The microstructure of a polymer (sometimes called configuration) relates to the physical arrangement of monomer residues along the backbone of the chain. These are the elements of polymer structure that require the breaking of a covalent bond in order to change. Various polymer structures can be produced depending on the monomers and reaction conditions: A polymer may consist of linear macromolecules containing each only one unbranched chain. In the case of unbranched polyethylene, this chain is a long-chain ''n''-alkane. There are also branched macromolecules with a main chain and side chains, in the case of polyethylene the side chains would be alkyl groups. In particular unbranched macromolecules can be in the solid state semi-crystalline, crystalline chain sections highlighted red in the figure below. While branched and unbranched polymers are usually thermoplastics, many
elastomer An elastomer is a polymer with viscoelasticity (i.e. both viscosity and elasticity) and with weak intermolecular forces, generally low Young's modulus and high failure strain compared with other materials. The term, a portmanteau of ''ela ...
s have a wide-meshed cross-linking between the "main chains". Close-meshed crosslinking, on the other hand, leads to thermosets. Cross-links and branches are shown as red dots in the figures. Highly branched polymers are amorphous and the molecules in the solid interact randomly. :

### Polymer architecture

An important microstructural feature of a polymer is its architecture and shape, which relates to the way branch points lead to a deviation from a simple linear chain. A branched polymer molecule is composed of a main chain with one or more substituent side chains or branches. Types of branched polymers include star polymers, comb polymers,
polymer brush A polymer brush is the name given to a surface coating consisting of polymers tethered to a surface. The brush may be either in a solvated state, where the tethered polymer layer consists of polymer and solvent, or in a melt state, where the teth ...
es, dendronized polymers, ladder polymers, and
dendrimer Dendrimers are highly ordered, branched polymeric molecules. Synonymous terms for dendrimer include arborols and cascade molecules. Typically, dendrimers are symmetric about the core, and often adopt a spherical three-dimensional morphology. The w ...
s. There exist also two-dimensional polymers (2DP) which are composed of topologically planar repeat units. A polymer's architecture affects many of its physical properties including solution viscosity, melt viscosity, solubility in various solvents, glass-transition temperature and the size of individual polymer coils in solution. A variety of techniques may be employed for the synthesis of a polymeric material with a range of architectures, for example
living polymerization In polymer chemistry, living polymerization is a form of chain growth polymerization where the ability of a growing polymer chain to chain termination, terminate has been removed. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Chain termination and ...
.

### Chain length

A common means of expressing the length of a chain is the
degree of polymerization The degree of polymerization, or DP, is the number of structural unit, monomeric units in a macromolecule or polymer or oligomer molecule. For a homopolymer, there is only one type of monomeric unit and the ''number-average'' degree of polymerizat ...
, which quantifies the number of monomers incorporated into the chain.Rubinstein, p. 3 As with other molecules, a polymer's size may also be expressed in terms of
molecular weight A molecule is a group of two or more atoms held together by attractive forces known as chemical bonds; depending on context, the term may or may not include ions which satisfy this criterion. In quantum physics, organic chemistry, and bioche ...
. Since synthetic polymerization techniques typically yield a statistical distribution of chain lengths, the molecular weight is expressed in terms of weighted averages. The number-average molecular weight (''M''n) and weight-average molecular weight (''M''w) are most commonly reported.Rubinstein, pp. 23–24 The ratio of these two values (''M''w / ''M''n) is the
dispersity In chemistry, the dispersity is a measure of the heterogeneity of sizes of molecules or particles in a mixture. A collection of objects is called uniform if the objects have the same size, shape, or mass. A sample of objects that have an inconsi ...
(''Đ''), which is commonly used to express the width of the molecular weight distribution. The physical properties of polymer strongly depend on the length (or equivalently, the molecular weight) of the polymer chain.Rubinstein, p. 5 One important example of the physical consequences of the molecular weight is the scaling of the
viscosity The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its drag (physics), resistance to deformation at a given rate. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness": for example, syrup has a higher viscosity than water. Viscosity quant ...
(resistance to flow) in the melt. The influence of the weight-average molecular weight ($M_w$) on the melt viscosity ($\eta$) depends on whether the polymer is above or below the onset of entanglements. Below the entanglement molecular weight, $\eta \sim ^$, whereas above the entanglement molecular weight, $\eta \sim ^$. In the latter case, increasing the polymer chain length 10-fold would increase the viscosity over 1000 times. Increasing chain length furthermore tends to decrease chain mobility, increase strength and toughness, and increase the glass-transition temperature (Tg). This is a result of the increase in chain interactions such as van der Waals attractions and entanglements that come with increased chain length. These interactions tend to fix the individual chains more strongly in position and resist deformations and matrix breakup, both at higher stresses and higher temperatures.

### Monomer arrangement in copolymers

Copolymers are classified either as statistical copolymers, alternating copolymers, block copolymers, graft copolymers or gradient copolymers. In the schematic figure below, and symbolize the two
repeat unit In polymer chemistry, a repeat unit or repeating unit (or mer) is a part of a polymer whose repetition would produce the complete polymer chain (except for the end-groups) by linking the repeat units together successively along the chain, like the ...
s. : *Alternating copolymers possess two regularly alternating monomer residues:Painter, p. 14 . An example is the equimolar copolymer of
styrene Styrene () is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. This derivative of benzene is a colorless oily liquid, although aged samples can appear yellowish. The compound evaporates easily and has a sweet smell, although high concen ...
and
maleic anhydride Maleic anhydride is an organic compound with the formula C2H2(CO)2O. It is the acid anhydride of maleic acid. It is a colorless or white solid with an acrid odor. It is produced industrially on a large scale for applications in coatings and poly ...
formed by free-radical chain-growth polymerization.Rudin p.18-20 A step-growth copolymer such as
Nylon 66 Nylon 66 (loosely written nylon 6-6, nylon 6/6, nylon 6,6, or nylon 6:6) is a type of polyamide or nylon Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers composed of polyamides (polymer, repeating units linked by amide links ...
can also be considered a strictly alternating copolymer of diamine and diacid residues, but is often described as a homopolymer with the dimeric residue of one amine and one acid as a repeat unit.Cowie p.104 *Periodic copolymers have more than two species of monomer units in a regular sequence. *Statistical copolymers have monomer residues arranged according to a statistical rule. A statistical copolymer in which the probability of finding a particular type of monomer residue at a particular point in the chain is independent of the types of surrounding monomer residue may be referred to as a truly random copolymer.Painter, p. 15 For example, the chain-growth copolymer of
vinyl chloride Vinyl chloride is an organochloride with the formula H2C=CHCl. It is also called vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) or chloroethene. This colorless compound is an important industrial chemical chiefly used to produce the polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ...
and
vinyl acetate Vinyl acetate is an organic compound with the Chemical formula, formula CH3CO2CH=CH2. This colorless liquid is the precursor to polyvinyl acetate and ethylene-vinyl acetate, ethene-vinyl acetate copolymers, important industrial polymers. Producti ...
is random. *Block copolymers have long sequences of different monomer units. Polymers with two or three blocks of two distinct chemical species (e.g., A and B) are called diblock copolymers and triblock copolymers, respectively. Polymers with three blocks, each of a different chemical species (e.g., A, B, and C) are termed triblock terpolymers. *Graft or grafted copolymers contain side chains or branches whose repeat units have a different composition or configuration than the main chain. The branches are added on to a preformed main chain macromolecule. Monomers within a copolymer may be organized along the backbone in a variety of ways. A copolymer containing a controlled arrangement of monomers is called a
sequence-controlled polymer A sequence-controlled polymer is a macromolecule A macromolecule is a very large molecule important to biophysical processes, such as a protein or nucleic acid. It is composed of thousands of covalent bond, covalently bonded atoms. Many macr ...
. Alternating, periodic and block copolymers are simple examples of
sequence-controlled polymer A sequence-controlled polymer is a macromolecule A macromolecule is a very large molecule important to biophysical processes, such as a protein or nucleic acid. It is composed of thousands of covalent bond, covalently bonded atoms. Many macr ...
s.

### Tacticity

Tacticity describes the relative
stereochemistry Stereochemistry, a subdiscipline of chemistry, involves the study of the relative spatial arrangement of atoms that form the structure of molecules and their manipulation. The study of stereochemistry focuses on the relationships between stereois ...
of
chiral Chirality is a property of asymmetry important in several branches of science. The word ''chirality'' is derived from the Greek (''kheir''), "hand", a familiar chiral object. An object or a system is ''chiral'' if it is distinguishable from ...
centers in neighboring structural units within a macromolecule. There are three types of tacticity: isotactic (all substituents on the same side),
atactic Tacticity (from el, τακτικός, taktikos, "relating to arrangement or order") is the relative stereochemistry of adjacent chirality (chemistry), chiral centers within a macromolecule. The practical significance of tacticity rests on the ef ...
(random placement of substituents), and
syndiotactic Tacticity (from el, τακτικός, taktikos, "relating to arrangement or order") is the relative stereochemistry of adjacent chirality (chemistry), chiral centers within a macromolecule. The practical significance of tacticity rests on the ef ...
(alternating placement of substituents). :

## Morphology

Polymer morphology generally describes the arrangement and microscale ordering of polymer chains in space. The macroscopic physical properties of a polymer are related to the interactions between the polymer chains. * Disordered polymers: In the solid state, atactic polymers, polymers with a high degree of branching and random copolymers form
amorphous In condensed matter physics and materials science, an amorphous solid (or non-crystalline solid) is a solid that lacks the long-range order that is characteristic of a crystal. The terms "glass" and "glassy solid" are sometimes used synonymousl ...
(i.e. glassy structures).Bernd Tieke: ''Makromolekulare Chemie.'' 3. Auflage, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2014, S. 295f (in German). In melt and solution, polymers tend to form a constantly changing "statistical cluster", see freely-jointed-chain model. In the solid state, the respective conformations of the molecules are frozen. Hooking and entanglement of chain molecules lead to a "mechanical bond" between the chains.
Intermolecular An intermolecular force (IMF) (or secondary force) is the force that mediates interaction between molecules, including the electromagnetic forces of attraction or repulsion which act between atoms and other types of neighbouring particles, e.g. at ...
and intramolecular attractive forces only occur at sites where molecule segments are close enough to each other. The irregular structures of the molecules prevent a narrower arrangement. * Linear polymers with periodic structure, low branching and stereoregularity (e. g. not atactic) have a semi-crystalline structure in the solid state. In simple polymers (such as polyethylene), the chains are present in the crystal in zigzag conformation. Several zigzag conformations form dense chain packs, called crystallites or lamellae. The lamellae are much thinner than the polymers are long (often about 10 nm). Wolfgang Kaiser: ''Kunststoffchemie für Ingenieure.'' 3. Auflage, Carl Hanser, München 2011, S. 84. They are formed by more or less regular folding of one or more molecular chains. Amorphous structures exist between the lamellae. Individual molecules can lead to entanglements between the lamellae and can also be involved in the formation of two (or more) lamellae (chains than called tie molecules). Several lamellae form a superstructure, a
spherulite In petrology, spherulites () are small, rounded bodies that commonly occur in volcanic glass, vitreous igneous rocks. They are often visible in specimens of obsidian, pitchstone, and rhyolite as globules about the size of millet seed or rice g ...
, often with a diameter in the range of 0.05 to 1 mm. :The type and arrangement of (functional) residues of the repeat units effects or determines the crystallinity and strength of the secondary valence bonds. In isotactic polypropylene, the molecules form a helix. Like the zigzag conformation, such helices allow a dense chain packing. Particularly strong intermolecular interactions occur when the residues of the repeating units allow the formation of
hydrogen bond In chemistry, a hydrogen bond (or H-bond) is a primarily Electrostatics, electrostatic force of attraction between a hydrogen (H) atom which is Covalent bond, covalently bound to a more electronegativity, electronegative "donor" atom or group ( ...
s, as in the case of ''p''-aramid. The formation of strong intramolecular associations may produce diverse folded states of single linear chains with distinct
circuit topology The circuit topology of a folded linear polymer refers to the arrangement of its intra-molecular contacts. Examples of linear polymers with intra-molecular contacts are nucleic acids and proteins. Proteins fold via formation of contacts of variou ...
. Crystallinity and superstructure are always dependent on the conditions of their formation, see also:
crystallization of polymers Crystallization of polymers is a process associated with partial alignment of their molecular chains. These chains fold together and form ordered regions called Lamella (materials), lamellae, which compose larger spheroidal structures named Spheru ...
. Compared to amorphous structures, semi-crystalline structures lead to a higher stiffness, density, melting temperature and higher resistance of a polymer. * Cross-linked polymers: Wide-meshed cross-linked polymers are
elastomer An elastomer is a polymer with viscoelasticity (i.e. both viscosity and elasticity) and with weak intermolecular forces, generally low Young's modulus and high failure strain compared with other materials. The term, a portmanteau of ''ela ...
s and cannot be molten (unlike
thermoplastic A thermoplastic, or thermosoft plastic, is any plastic polymer material that becomes pliable or moldable at a certain elevated temperature and solidifies upon cooling. Most thermoplastics have a high molecular weight. The polymer chains associat ...
decomposition Decomposition or rot is the process by which dead organic substances are broken down into simpler organic or inorganic matter such as carbon dioxide, water, simple sugars and mineral salts. The process is a part of the nutrient cycle and is e ...
.
Thermoplastic elastomer Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), sometimes referred to as thermoplastic rubbers, are a class of copolymers or a polymer blend, physical mix of polymers (usually a plastic and a rubber) that consist of materials with both thermoplastic and elastomer ...
s, on the other hand, are reversibly "physically crosslinked" and can be molten. Block copolymers in which a hard segment of the polymer has a tendency to crystallize and a soft segment has an amorphous structure are one type of thermoplastic elastomers: the hard segments ensure wide-meshed, physical crosslinking.

### Crystallinity

When applied to polymers, the term ''crystalline'' has a somewhat ambiguous usage. In some cases, the term ''crystalline'' finds identical usage to that used in conventional
crystallography Crystallography is the experimental science of determining the arrangement of atoms in Crystal, crystalline solids. Crystallography is a fundamental subject in the fields of materials science and solid-state physics (condensed matter physics). ...
. For example, the structure of a crystalline protein or polynucleotide, such as a sample prepared for
x-ray crystallography X-ray crystallography is the experimental science determining the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal, in which the crystalline structure causes a beam of incident X-rays to Diffraction, diffract into many specific directions. By measurin ...
, may be defined in terms of a conventional unit cell composed of one or more polymer molecules with cell dimensions of hundreds of
angstrom The angstromEntry "angstrom" in the Oxford online dictionary. Retrieved on 2019-03-02 from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/angstrom.Entry "angstrom" in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Retrieved on 2019-03-02 from https://www.m ...
s or more. A synthetic polymer may be loosely described as crystalline if it contains regions of three-dimensional ordering on atomic (rather than macromolecular) length scales, usually arising from intramolecular folding or stacking of adjacent chains. Synthetic polymers may consist of both crystalline and amorphous regions; the degree of crystallinity may be expressed in terms of a weight fraction or volume fraction of crystalline material. Few synthetic polymers are entirely crystalline. The crystallinity of polymers is characterized by their degree of crystallinity, ranging from zero for a completely non-crystalline polymer to one for a theoretical completely crystalline polymer. Polymers with microcrystalline regions are generally tougher (can be bent more without breaking) and more impact-resistant than totally amorphous polymers. Polymers with a degree of crystallinity approaching zero or one will tend to be transparent, while polymers with intermediate degrees of crystallinity will tend to be opaque due to light scattering by crystalline or glassy regions. For many polymers, crystallinity may also be associated with decreased transparency.

### Chain conformation

The space occupied by a polymer molecule is generally expressed in terms of
radius of gyration ''Radius of gyration'' or gyradius of a body about the axis of rotation is defined as the radial distance to a point which would have a moment of inertia the same as the body's actual distribution of mass, if the total mass of the body were concentr ...
, which is an average distance from the center of mass of the chain to the chain itself. Alternatively, it may be expressed in terms of pervaded volume, which is the volume spanned by the polymer chain and scales with the cube of the radius of gyration. The simplest theoretical models for polymers in the molten, amorphous state are
ideal chain Ideal may refer to: Philosophy * Ideal (ethics), values that one actively pursues as goals * Platonic ideal, a philosophical idea of trueness of form, associated with Plato Mathematics * Ideal (ring theory) In ring theory, a branch of abs ...
s.

# Properties

Polymer properties depend of their structure and they are divided into classes according to their physical bases. Many physical and chemical properties describe how a polymer behaves as a continuous macroscopic material. They are classified as bulk properties, or
intensive properties Physical properties of materials and systems can often be categorized as being either intensive or extensive, according to how the property changes when the size (or extent) of the system changes. According to International Union of Pure and Appl ...
according to
thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation. The behavior of these quantities is governed b ...
.

## Mechanical properties

The bulk properties of a polymer are those most often of end-use interest. These are the properties that dictate how the polymer actually behaves on a macroscopic scale.

### Tensile strength

The
tensile strength Ultimate tensile strength (UTS), often shortened to tensile strength (TS), ultimate strength, or F_\text within equations, is the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking. In brittle materials ...
of a material quantifies how much elongating stress the material will endure before failure. This is very important in applications that rely upon a polymer's physical strength or durability. For example, a rubber band with a higher tensile strength will hold a greater weight before snapping. In general, tensile strength increases with polymer chain length and crosslinking of polymer chains.

### Young's modulus of elasticity

Young's modulus Young's modulus E, the Young modulus, or the modulus of elasticity in tension or compression (i.e., negative tension), is a mechanical property that measures the tensile or compressive stiffness of a solid material when the force is applied ...
quantifies the elasticity of the polymer. It is defined, for small strains, as the ratio of rate of change of stress to strain. Like tensile strength, this is highly relevant in polymer applications involving the physical properties of polymers, such as rubber bands. The modulus is strongly dependent on temperature.
Viscoelasticity In materials science and continuum mechanics, viscoelasticity is the property of materials that exhibit both Viscosity, viscous and Elasticity (physics), elastic characteristics when undergoing deformation (engineering), deformation. Viscous mate ...
describes a complex time-dependent elastic response, which will exhibit
hysteresis Hysteresis is the dependence of the state of a system on its history. For example, a magnet may have more than one possible magnetic moment in a given magnetic field, depending on how the field changed in the past. Plots of a single component of ...
in the stress-strain curve when the load is removed.
Dynamic mechanical analysis Dynamic mechanical analysis (abbreviated DMA) is a technique used to study and characterize materials. It is most useful for studying the viscoelastic behavior of polymer, polymers. A sinusoidal stress is applied and the strain in the material is ...
or DMA measures this complex modulus by oscillating the load and measuring the resulting strain as a function of time.

## Transport properties

Transport properties such as diffusivity describe how rapidly molecules move through the polymer matrix. These are very important in many applications of polymers for films and membranes. The movement of individual macromolecules occurs by a process called
reptation A peculiarity of thermal motion of very long linear macromolecules in ''entangled'' polymer melts or concentrated polymer solutions is reptation. Derived from the word reptile, reptation suggests the movement of entangled polymer chains as bein ...
in which each chain molecule is constrained by entanglements with neighboring chains to move within a virtual tube. The theory of reptation can explain polymer molecule dynamics and
viscoelasticity In materials science and continuum mechanics, viscoelasticity is the property of materials that exhibit both Viscosity, viscous and Elasticity (physics), elastic characteristics when undergoing deformation (engineering), deformation. Viscous mate ...
.

## Phase behavior

### Crystallization and melting

Depending on their chemical structures, polymers may be either semi-crystalline or amorphous. Semi-crystalline polymers can undergo crystallization and melting transitions, whereas amorphous polymers do not. In polymers, crystallization and melting do not suggest solid-liquid phase transitions, as in the case of water or other molecular fluids. Instead, crystallization and melting refer to the phase transitions between two solid states (''i.e.'', semi-crystalline and amorphous). Crystallization occurs above the glass-transition temperature (''T''g) and below the melting temperature (''T''m).

### Glass transition

All polymers (amorphous or semi-crystalline) go through
glass transition The glass–liquid transition, or glass transition, is the gradual and Reversible reaction, reversible transition in amorphous solid, amorphous materials (or in amorphous regions within Crystallinity, semicrystalline materials) from a hard and rela ...
s. The glass-transition temperature (''T''g) is a crucial physical parameter for polymer manufacturing, processing, and use. Below ''T''g, molecular motions are frozen and polymers are brittle and glassy. Above ''T''g, molecular motions are activated and polymers are rubbery and viscous. The glass-transition temperature may be engineered by altering the degree of branching or crosslinking in the polymer or by the addition of
plasticizer A plasticizer (British English, UK: plasticiser) is a substance that is added to a material to make it softer and more flexible, to increase its plasticity (physics), plasticity, to decrease its viscosity, and/or to decrease friction during its ...
s. Whereas crystallization and melting are first-order
phase transition In chemistry, thermodynamics, and other related fields, a phase transition (or phase change) is the physical process of transition between one state of a medium and another. Commonly the term is used to refer to changes among the basic State of ...
s, the glass transition is not. The glass transition shares features of second-order phase transitions (such as discontinuity in the heat capacity, as shown in the figure), but it is generally not considered a thermodynamic transition between equilibrium states.

### Mixing behavior

In general, polymeric mixtures are far less
miscible Miscibility () is the property of two chemical substance, substances to mix in all mixing ratio, proportions (that is, to fully dissolution (chemistry), dissolve in each other at any concentration), forming a homogeneity and heterogeneity, homoge ...
than mixtures of
small molecule Within the fields of molecular biology and pharmacology, a small molecule or micromolecule is a low molecular weight (≤ 1000 Atomic mass unit, daltons) organic compound that may regulate a biological process, with a size on the order of 1 nm ...
materials. This effect results from the fact that the driving force for mixing is usually
entropy Entropy is a scientific concept, as well as a measurable physical property, that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The term and the concept are used in diverse fields, from classical thermodynam ...
, not interaction energy. In other words, miscible materials usually form a solution not because their interaction with each other is more favorable than their self-interaction, but because of an increase in entropy and hence free energy associated with increasing the amount of volume available to each component. This increase in entropy scales with the number of particles (or moles) being mixed. Since polymeric molecules are much larger and hence generally have much higher specific volumes than small molecules, the number of molecules involved in a polymeric mixture is far smaller than the number in a small molecule mixture of equal volume. The energetics of mixing, on the other hand, is comparable on a per volume basis for polymeric and small molecule mixtures. This tends to increase the free energy of mixing for polymer solutions and thereby making solvation less favorable, and thereby making the availability of concentrated solutions of polymers far rarer than those of small molecules. Furthermore, the phase behavior of polymer solutions and mixtures is more complex than that of small molecule mixtures. Whereas most small molecule solutions exhibit only an
upper critical solution temperature The upper critical solution temperature (UCST) or upper consolute temperature is the critical temperature above which the components of a mixture are miscible Miscibility () is the property of two chemical substance, substances to mix in all mi ...
phase transition (UCST), at which phase separation occurs with cooling, polymer mixtures commonly exhibit a lower critical solution temperature phase transition (LCST), at which phase separation occurs with heating. In dilute solutions, the properties of the polymer are characterized by the interaction between the solvent and the polymer. In a good solvent, the polymer appears swollen and occupies a large volume. In this scenario, intermolecular forces between the solvent and monomer subunits dominate over intramolecular interactions. In a bad solvent or poor solvent, intramolecular forces dominate and the chain contracts. In the theta solvent, or the state of the polymer solution where the value of the second virial coefficient becomes 0, the intermolecular polymer-solvent repulsion balances exactly the intramolecular monomer-monomer attraction. Under the theta condition (also called the Flory condition), the polymer behaves like an ideal
random coil In polymer chemistry, a random coil is a Chemical structure, conformation of polymers where the monomer subunits are oriented randomly while still being chemical bond, bonded to adjacent units. It is not one specific shape, but a statistical distr ...
. The transition between the states is known as a coil–globule transition.

### Inclusion of plasticizers

Inclusion of plasticizers tends to lower Tg and increase polymer flexibility. Addition of the plasticizer will also modify dependence of the glass-transition temperature Tg on the cooling rate. The mobility of the chain can further change if the molecules of plasticizer give rise to hydrogen bonding formation. Plasticizers are generally small molecules that are chemically similar to the polymer and create gaps between polymer chains for greater mobility and fewer interchain interactions. A good example of the action of plasticizers is related to polyvinylchlorides or PVCs. A uPVC, or unplasticized polyvinylchloride, is used for things such as pipes. A pipe has no plasticizers in it, because it needs to remain strong and heat-resistant. Plasticized PVC is used in clothing for a flexible quality. Plasticizers are also put in some types of cling film to make the polymer more flexible.

## Chemical properties

The attractive forces between polymer chains play a large part in determining the polymer’s properties. Because polymer chains are so long, they have many such interchain interactions per molecule, amplifying the effect of these interactions on the polymer properties in comparison to attractions between conventional molecules. Different side groups on the polymer can lend the polymer to
ionic bonding Ionic bonding is a type of chemical bonding that involves the electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions, or between two atoms with sharply different electronegativities, and is the primary interaction occurring in ionic compou ...
or
hydrogen bonding In chemistry, a hydrogen bond (or H-bond) is a primarily Electrostatics, electrostatic force of attraction between a hydrogen (H) atom which is Covalent bond, covalently bound to a more electronegativity, electronegative "donor" atom or group ( ...
between its own chains. These stronger forces typically result in higher tensile strength and higher crystalline melting points. The intermolecular forces in polymers can be affected by
dipole In physics, a dipole () is an electromagnetic phenomenon which occurs in two ways: *An electric dipole moment, electric dipole deals with the separation of the positive and negative electric charges found in any electromagnetic system. A simple ...
s in the monomer units. Polymers containing
amide In organic chemistry, an amide, also known as an organic amide or a carboxamide, is a chemical compound, compound with the general formula , where R, R', and R″ represent organic compound, organic functional group, groups or hydrogen atoms ...
or
carbonyl In organic chemistry Organic chemistry is a subdiscipline within chemistry involving the science, scientific study of the structure, properties, and reactions of organic compounds and organic materials, i.e., matter in its various forms that c ...
groups can form
hydrogen bond In chemistry, a hydrogen bond (or H-bond) is a primarily Electrostatics, electrostatic force of attraction between a hydrogen (H) atom which is Covalent bond, covalently bound to a more electronegativity, electronegative "donor" atom or group ( ...
s between adjacent chains; the partially positively charged hydrogen atoms in N-H groups of one chain are strongly attracted to the partially negatively charged oxygen atoms in C=O groups on another. These strong hydrogen bonds, for example, result in the high tensile strength and melting point of polymers containing urethane or
urea Urea, also known as carbamide, is an organic compound with chemical formula . This amide has two Amine, amino groups (–) joined by a carbonyl functional group (–C(=O)–). It is thus the simplest amide of carbamic acid. Urea serves an impor ...
Polyester Polyester is a category of polymers that contain the ester functional group in every repeat unit of their main chain. As a specific material, it most commonly refers to a type called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Polyesters include natural ...
s have dipole-dipole bonding between the oxygen atoms in C=O groups and the hydrogen atoms in H-C groups. Dipole bonding is not as strong as hydrogen bonding, so a polyester's melting point and strength are lower than
Kevlar Kevlar (para-aramid) is a strong, heat-resistant synthetic fiber, related to other aramids such as Nomex and Technora. Developed by Stephanie Kwolek at DuPont in 1965, the high-strength material was first used commercially in the early 1970s as ...
's (
Twaron Twaron (a brand name of Teijin Aramid) is a Aramid, para-aramid. It is a heat-resistant and strong synthetic fibre developed in the early 1970s by the Dutch company Akzo Nobel's division Enka BV, later Akzo Industrial Fibers. The research name of t ...
), but polyesters have greater flexibility. Polymers with non-polar units such as polyethylene interact only through weak
Van der Waals force In molecular physics, the van der Waals force is a distance-dependent interaction between atoms or molecules. Unlike ionic bond, ionic or covalent bonds, these attractions do not result from a Chemical bond, chemical electronic bond; they are c ...
s. As a result, they typically have lower melting temperatures than other polymers. When a polymer is dispersed or dissolved in a liquid, such as in commercial products like paints and glues, the chemical properties and molecular interactions influence how the solution flows and can even lead to
self-assembly Self-assembly is a process in which a disordered system of pre-existing components forms an organized structure or pattern as a consequence of specific, local interactions among the components themselves, without external direction. When the ...
of the polymer into complex structures. When a polymer is applied as a coating, the chemical properties will influence the adhesion of the coating and how it interacts with external materials, such as
superhydrophobic Ultrahydrophobic (or superhydrophobic) surfaces are highly hydrophobic, i.e., extremely difficult to wetting, wet. The contact angles of a water droplet on an ultrahydrophobic material exceed 150°. This is also referred to as the lotus effect, a ...
polymer coatings leading to water resistance. Overall the chemical properties of a polymer are important elements for designing new polymeric material products.

## Optical properties

Polymers such as PMMA and HEMA:MMA are used as matrices in the gain medium of solid-state dye lasers, also known as solid-state dye-doped polymer lasers. These polymers have a high surface quality and are also highly transparent so that the laser properties are dominated by the laser dye used to dope the polymer matrix. These type of lasers, that also belong to the class of organic lasers, are known to yield very narrow linewidths which is useful for spectroscopy and analytical applications. An important optical parameter in the polymer used in laser applications is the change in refractive index with temperature also known as dn/dT. For the polymers mentioned here the (dn/dT) ~ −1.4 × 10−4 in units of K−1 in the 297 ≤ T ≤ 337 K range.

## Electrical properties

Most conventional polymers such as polyethylene are electrical insulators, but the development of polymers containing π-conjugated bonds has led to a wealth of polymer-based
semiconductor A semiconductor is a material which has an electrical resistivity and conductivity, electrical conductivity value falling between that of a electrical conductor, conductor, such as copper, and an insulator (electricity), insulator, such as glas ...
s, such as
polythiophene Polythiophenes (PTs) are polymerized thiophenes, a sulfur heterocyclic compound, heterocycle. The parent PT is an insoluble colored solid with the formula (C4H2S)n. The rings are linked through the 2- and 5-positions. Poly(alkylthiophene)s hav ...
s. This has led to many applications in the field of
organic electronics Organic electronics is a field of materials science concerning the design, Chemical synthesis, synthesis, characterization, and application of Organic compound, organic molecules or polymers that show desirable Electronics, electronic properties ...
.

# Applications

Nowadays, synthetic polymers are used in almost all walks of life. Modern society would look very different without them. The spreading of polymer use is connected to their unique properties: low density, low cost, good thermal/electrical insulation properties, high resistance to corrosion, low-energy demanding polymer manufacture and facile processing into final products. For a given application, the properties of a polymer can be tuned or enhanced by combination with other materials, as in composites. Their application allows to save energy (lighter cars and planes, thermally insulated buildings), protect food and drinking water (packaging), save land and lower use of fertilizers (synthetic fibres), preserve other materials (coatings), protect and save lifes (hygiene, medical applications). A representative, non-exhaustive list of applications is given below. * Clothing, sportswear and accessories:
polyester Polyester is a category of polymers that contain the ester functional group in every repeat unit of their main chain. As a specific material, it most commonly refers to a type called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Polyesters include natural ...
and
PVC clothing PVC clothing is shiny clothing made from the plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC plastic is often called "vinyl" and this type of clothing is commonly known as "vinyl clothing". PVC is sometimes confused with the similarly shiny patent leat ...
,
spandex Spandex, Lycra, or elastane is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. It is a polyether- polyurea copolymer that was invented in 1958 by chemist Joseph Shivers at DuPont's Benger Laboratory in Waynesboro, Virginia, US. ...
, sport shoes,
wetsuit A wetsuit is a garment worn to provide thermal protection while wet. It is usually made of foamed neoprene, and is worn by surfing, surfers, Underwater diving, divers, windsurfers, canoeists, and others engaged in water sports and other activit ...
s, footballs and
billiard balls A billiard ball is a small, hard ball A ball is a round object (usually sphere, spherical, but can sometimes be ovoid) with several uses. It is used in ball games, where the play of the game follows the state of the ball as it is hit, kic ...
, skis and
snowboard Snowboards are boards where the user places both feet, usually secured, to the same board. The board itself is wider than most skis, with the ability to glide on snow."snowboarding." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 17 Mar ...
s, rackets,
parachute A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating Drag (physics), drag or, in a ram-air parachute, aerodynamic Lift (force), lift. A major application is to support people, for recreation or as a sa ...
s,
sail A sail is a tensile structure—which is made from fabric or other membrane materials—that uses wind power to propel sailing craft, including sailing ships, sailboats, Windsurfing, windsurfers, ice boats, and even land sailing, sail-powered l ...
s, tents and shelters. * Electronic and photonic technologies: organic field effect transistors (OFET), light emitting diodes (OLED) and
solar cells A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell, is an electronic device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, which is a physics, physical and Chemical substance, chemical phenomenon.television components,
compact disc The compact disc (CD) is a Digital media, digital optical disc data storage format that was co-developed by Philips and Sony to store and play digital audio recordings. In August 1982, the first compact disc was manufactured. It was then rele ...
s (CD),
photoresist A photoresist (also known simply as a resist) is a sensitometry, light-sensitive material used in several processes, such as photolithography and photoengraving, to form a patterned coating on a surface. This process is crucial in the Electronic ...
s,
holography Holography is a technique that enables a wavefront to be recorded and later re-constructed. Holography is best known as a method of generating real three-dimensional images, but it also has a wide range of other Holography#Applications, applic ...
. * Packaging and containers:
films A film also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, picture, photoplay or (slang) flick is a work of visual art that simulates experiences and otherwise communicates ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmospher ...
,
bottles A bottle is a narrow-necked container made of an impermeable material (such as glass, plastic or aluminium) in various shapes and sizes that stores and transports liquids. Its mouth, at the bottling line, can be sealed with an internal Stoppe ...
,
food packaging Food packaging is a packaging and labeling, packaging system specifically designed for food and represents one of the most important aspects among the processes involved in the food industry, as it provides protection from chemical, biological ...
,
barrel A barrel or cask is a hollow cylindrical container with a bulging center, longer than it is wide. They are traditionally made of wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the Plant stem, stems and roots of trees a ...
s. * Insulation:
electrical Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion of matter that has a property of electric charge. Electricity is related to magnetism, both being part of the phenomenon of electromagnetism, as described ...
and
thermal insulation Thermal insulation is the reduction of heat transfer (i.e., the transfer of thermal energy between objects of differing temperature) between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Thermal insulation can be achieved with s ...
, spray foams. * Construction and structural applications:
garden furniture Garden furniture, also called patio furniture or outdoor furniture, is a type of furniture specifically designed for outdoor use. It is typically made of Weathering, weather-resistant materials such as aluminium which is rust-proof. Histor ...
, PVC windows, flooring, sealing,
pipes Pipe(s), PIPE(S) or piping may refer to: Objects * Pipe (fluid conveyance), a hollow cylinder following certain dimension rules ** Piping, the use of pipes in industry * Smoking pipe ** Tobacco pipe * Half-pipe and quarter pipe, semi-circular ...
. * Paints, glues and lubricants:
varnish Varnish is a clear Transparency (optics), transparent hard protective coating or film. It is not a wood stain, stain. It usually has a yellowish shade from the manufacturing process and materials used, but it may also be pigmented as desired, ...
,
adhesive Adhesive, also known as glue, cement, mucilage, or paste, is any non-metallic substance applied to one or both surfaces of two separate items that molecular binding , binds them together and resists their separation. The use of adhesives of ...
s,
dispersant A dispersant or a dispersing agent is a substance, typically a surfactant, that is added to a suspension (chemistry), suspension of solid or liquid particles in a liquid (such as a colloid or emulsion) to improve the separation of the particles an ...
s, anti-graffiti coatings, antifouling coatings,
non-stick surface A non-stick surface is engineered to reduce the ability of other materials to stick to it. Non-stick cookware is a common application, where the non-stick coating allows food to brown without sticking to the pan. Non-stick is often used to refer ...
s,
lubricant A lubricant (sometimes shortened to lube) is a substance that helps to reduce friction between surfaces in mutual contact, which ultimately reduces the heat generated when the surfaces move. It may also have the function of transmitting forces, t ...
s. * Car parts:
tire A tire (American English) or tyre (British English) is a ring-shaped component that surrounds a Rim (wheel), wheel's rim to transfer a vehicle's load from the axle through the wheel to the ground and to provide Traction (engineering), t ...
s, bumpers,
windshield The windshield (North American English) or windscreen (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English) of an aircraft, car, bus, motorbike, truck, train, boat or tram, streetcar is the front window, which provides visibility whi ...
s, windscreen wipers,
fuel tank A fuel tank (also called a petrol tank or gas tank) is a safe container for Flammability, flammable fluids. Though any storage tank for fuel may be so called, the term is typically applied to part of an engine system in which the fuel is stored ...
s,
car seat A car seat is the seat used in automobiles. Most car seats are made from inexpensive but durable material in order to withstand prolonged use. The most common material is polyester. Bucket seat and bench seat A bucket seat is a separate s ...
s. * Household items:
bucket A bucket is typically a watertight, vertical Cylinder (geometry), cylinder or Truncation (geometry), truncated Cone (geometry), cone or square, with an open top and a flat bottom, attached to a semicircular carrying handle (grip), handle called ...
s,
kitchenware :'' For a record label, see Kitchenware Records'' Kitchenware are the tools, kitchen utensil, utensils, Home appliance, appliances, Dishware, dishes, and cookware used in food preparation, or the serving of food. Kitchenware can also be used in o ...
, toys (e.g.,
construction set A construction set is a set of standardized pieces that allow for the construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form Physical object, objects, systems, or organizations,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. ...
s and
Rubik's cube The Rubik's Cube is a Three-dimensional space, 3-D combination puzzle originally invented in 1974 by Hungarians, Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik. Originally called the Magic Cube, the puzzle was licensed by Rubik t ...
). * Medical applications: blood bag,
syringe A syringe is a simple reciprocating pump consisting of a plunger (though in modern syringes, it is actually a piston) that fits tightly within a cylindrical tube called a barrel. The plunger can be linearly pulled and pushed along the inside ...
s, rubber gloves,
surgical suture A surgical suture, also known as a stitch or stitches, is a medical device used to hold Tissue (biology), body tissues together and approximate wound edges after an injury or surgery. Application generally involves using a Sewing needle, needle w ...
,
contact lens Contact lenses, or simply contacts, are thin lenses placed directly on the surface of the eyes. Contact lenses are ocular prosthetic devices used by over 150 million people worldwide, and they can be worn to correct vision or for cosmetic ...
es,
prosthesis In medicine, a prosthesis (plural: prostheses; from grc, πρόσθεσις, prósthesis, addition, application, attachment), or a prosthetic implant, is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part, which may be lost through trau ...
, controlled drug delivery and release, matrices for cell growth. * Personal hygiene and healthcare:
diaper A diaper Help:IPA/English, /ˈdaɪpə(r)/ (American English, American and Canadian English) or a nappy (Australian English, British English, and Hiberno-English) is a type of underwear that allows the wearer to urinate or defecate without usi ...
s using
superabsorbent polymer A superabsorbent polymer (SAP) (also called slush powder) is a water-absorbing hydrophilic homopolymers or copolymers that can absorb and retain extremely large amounts of a liquid relative to its own mass. Water-absorbing polymers, which are cla ...
s,
toothbrush A toothbrush is an oral hygiene tool used to clean the teeth, gingiva, gums, and tongue. It consists of a head of tightly clustered bristles, atop of which toothpaste can be applied, mounted on a handle (grip), handle which facilitates the clean ...
es,
cosmetics Cosmetics are constituted mixtures of chemical compounds derived from either Natural product, natural sources, or synthetically created ones. Cosmetics have various purposes. Those designed for personal care and skin care can be used to Clea ...
,
shampoo Shampoo () is a hair care product, typically in the form of a Viscosity, viscous liquid, that is used for cleaning hair. Less commonly, shampoo is available in solid bar format. Shampoo is used by applying it to wet hair, massaging the product ...
,
condom A condom is a sheath-shaped Barrier contraception, barrier device used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy or a Sexually transmitted disease, sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are both male and female con ...
s. * Security:
personal protective equipment Personal protective equipment (PPE) is protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection. The hazards addressed by protective equipment include physical, elec ...
,
bulletproof vest A bulletproof vest, also known as a ballistic vest or a bullet-resistant vest, is an item of body armor that helps absorb the impact and reduce or stop penetration to the torso from firearm-fired projectiles and Fragmentation (weaponry), fragment ...
s,
space suit A space suit or spacesuit is a garment worn to keep a human alive in the harsh environment of outer space, Vacuum (outer space), vacuum and temperature extremes. Space suits are often worn inside spacecraft as a safety precaution in case of l ...
s,
rope A rope is a group of yarns, Plying, plies, fibres, or strands that are twisted or braided together into a larger and stronger form. Ropes have tensile strength and so can be used for dragging and lifting. Rope is thicker and stronger than simi ...
s. * Separation technologies:
synthetic membrane An artificial membrane, or synthetic membrane, is a synthetically created membrane which is usually intended for separation purposes in laboratory or in industry. Synthetic membranes have been successfully used for small and large-scale industrial ...
s, fuel cell membranes,
filtration Filtration is a physical separation process that separates solid matter and fluid from a mixture using a ''filter medium'' that has a complex structure through which only the fluid can pass. Solid particles that cannot pass through the filter m ...
,
ion-exchange resin An ion-exchange resin or ion-exchange polymer is a resin or polymer that acts as a medium for ion exchange. It is an solubility, insoluble matrix (or support structure) normally in the form of small (0.25–1.43 mm radius) microbeads, usually ...
s. * Money:
polymer banknote Polymer banknotes are banknote A banknote—also called a bill ( North American English), paper money, or simply a note—is a type of negotiable promissory note, made by a bank A bank is a financial institution that accepts dep ...
s and
payment card Payment cards are part of a payment system issued by financial institutions, such as a bank, to a customer that enables its owner (the cardholder) to access the funds in the customer's designated bank accounts, or through a credit account and mak ...
s. *
3D printing 3D printing or additive manufacturing is the construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form Physical object, objects, systems, or organizations,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. ''Oxford English ...
.

# Standardized nomenclature

There are multiple conventions for naming polymer substances. Many commonly used polymers, such as those found in consumer products, are referred to by a common or trivial name. The trivial name is assigned based on historical precedent or popular usage rather than a standardized naming convention. Both the
American Chemical Society The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a scientific society based in the United States that supports scientific inquiry in the field of chemistry Chemistry is the scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a na ...
(ACS) and
IUPAC The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC ) is an international federation of National Adhering Organizations working for the advancement of the chemical sciences, especially by developing nomenclature and terminology. It is ...
have proposed standardized naming conventions; the ACS and IUPAC conventions are similar but not identical. Examples of the differences between the various naming conventions are given in the table below: In both standardized conventions, the polymers' names are intended to reflect the monomer(s) from which they are synthesized (source based nomenclature) rather than the precise nature of the repeating subunit. For example, the polymer synthesized from the simple alkene
ethene Ethylene (IUPAC The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC ) is an international federation of National Adhering Organizations working for the advancement of the chemical sciences, especially by developing nomenclature and ...
is called polyethene, retaining the ''-ene'' suffix even though the double bond is removed during the polymerization process: :→ :However, IUPAC structure based nomenclature is based on naming of the preferred constitutional repeating unit.

# Characterization

Polymer characterization spans many techniques for determining the chemical composition, molecular weight distribution, and physical properties. Select common techniques include the following: *
Size-exclusion chromatography Size-exclusion chromatography (SEC), also known as molecular sieve chromatography, is a chromatographic In chemical analysis, chromatography is a laboratory technique for the Separation process, separation of a mixture into its components. ...
(also called
gel permeation chromatography Gel permeation chromatography (GPC) is a type of size-exclusion chromatography (SEC), that separates analyte An analyte, component (in clinical chemistry), or chemical species is a substance or chemical constituent that is of interest in an ana ...
), sometimes coupled with
static light scattering Static light scattering is a technique in physical chemistry that measures the intensity of the scattered light to obtain the average molecular weight ''Mw'' of a macromolecule like a polymer or a protein in solution. Measurement of the scattering ...
, can used to determine the number-average molecular weight, weight-average molecular weight, and
dispersity In chemistry, the dispersity is a measure of the heterogeneity of sizes of molecules or particles in a mixture. A collection of objects is called uniform if the objects have the same size, shape, or mass. A sample of objects that have an inconsi ...
. *Scattering techniques, such as
static light scattering Static light scattering is a technique in physical chemistry that measures the intensity of the scattered light to obtain the average molecular weight ''Mw'' of a macromolecule like a polymer or a protein in solution. Measurement of the scattering ...
and
small-angle neutron scattering Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) is an analytical technique, experimental technique that uses elastic neutron scattering at small scattering angles to investigate the structure of various substances at a mesoscopic scale of about 1–100&nbs ...
, are used to determine the dimensions (
radius of gyration ''Radius of gyration'' or gyradius of a body about the axis of rotation is defined as the radial distance to a point which would have a moment of inertia the same as the body's actual distribution of mass, if the total mass of the body were concentr ...
) of macromolecules in solution or in the melt. These techniques are also used to characterize the three-dimensional structure of microphase-separated block polymers, polymeric micelles, and other materials. * Wide-angle X-ray scattering (also called wide-angle X-ray diffraction) is used to determine the crystalline structure of polymers (or lack thereof). *Spectroscopy techniques, including
Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is a technique used to obtain an infrared Infrared (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with wavelengths longer than those of Light, visible light. It is ther ...
,
Raman spectroscopy Raman spectroscopy () (named after Indian physicist C. V. Raman) is a spectroscopic technique typically used to determine vibrational modes of molecules, although rotational and other low-frequency modes of systems may also be observed. Raman ...
, and
nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, most commonly known as NMR spectroscopy or magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), is a Spectroscopy, spectroscopic technique to observe local magnetic fields around Atomic nucleus, atomic nuclei. The sampl ...
, can be used to determine the chemical composition. *
Differential scanning calorimetry Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a thermal analysis, thermoanalytical technique in which the difference in the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a sample and reference is measured as a function of temperature. Both t ...
is used to characterize the thermal properties of polymers, such as the glass-transition temperature, crystallization temperature, and melting temperature. The glass-transition temperature can also be determined by
dynamic mechanical analysis Dynamic mechanical analysis (abbreviated DMA) is a technique used to study and characterize materials. It is most useful for studying the viscoelastic behavior of polymer, polymers. A sinusoidal stress is applied and the strain in the material is ...
. *
Thermogravimetry Thermogravimetric analysis or thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA) is a method of thermal analysis in which the mass Mass is an Intrinsic and extrinsic properties, intrinsic property of a body. It was traditionally believed to be related to ...
is a useful technique to evaluate the thermal stability of the polymer. *
Rheology Rheology (; ) is the study of the flow of matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space by having volume. All everyday objects that can be touched are ultimately composed of atom ...
is used to characterize the flow and deformation behavior. It can be used to determine the
viscosity The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its drag (physics), resistance to deformation at a given rate. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness": for example, syrup has a higher viscosity than water. Viscosity quant ...
, modulus, and other rheological properties. Rheology is also often used to determine the molecular architecture (molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, branching) and to understand how the polymer can be processed.

Polymer degradation is a change in the properties—tensile strength,
color Color (American English) or colour (British English) is the visual perception, visual perceptual Physical property, property deriving from the spectrum of light interacting with the photoreceptor cells of the eyes. Color categories and physica ...
, shape, or molecular weight—of a polymer or polymer-based product under the influence of one or more environmental factors, such as
heat In thermodynamics, heat is defined as the form of energy crossing the boundary of a thermodynamic system by virtue of a temperature difference across the boundary. A thermodynamic system does not ''contain'' heat. Nevertheless, the term is al ...
,
light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that can be visual perception, perceived by the human eye. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), corresponding to frequency, fr ...
, and the presence of certain
chemical A chemical substance is a form of matter having constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. Some references add that chemical substance cannot be separated into its constituent Chemical element, elements by physical separation m ...
s, oxygen, and
enzymes Enzymes () are proteins that act as biological catalysts by accelerating chemical reactions. The molecules upon which enzymes may act are called substrate (chemistry), substrates, and the enzyme converts the substrates into different molecule ...
. This change in properties is often the result of bond breaking in the polymer backbone ( chain scission) which may occur at the chain ends or at random positions in the chain. Although such changes are frequently undesirable, in some cases, such as
biodegradation Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. It is generally assumed to be a natural process, which differentiates it from composting. Composting is a human-driven process in which biodegradati ...
and
recycling Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. The Energy recycling, recovery of energy from waste materials is often included in this concept. The recyclability of a material depends on its ability t ...
, they may be intended to prevent environmental
pollution Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of any substance (solid, liquid, or gas) or energy (such as radioactivity, heat, sound, or light). Pollutants, the ...
. Degradation can also be useful in biomedical settings. For example, a copolymer of
polylactic acid Polylactic acid, also known as poly(lactic acid) or polylactide (PLA), is a thermoplastic polyester with backbone formula or , formally obtained by condensation reaction, condensation of lactic acid with loss of water (hence its name). It can ...
and
polyglycolic acid Polyglycolide or poly(glycolic acid) (PGA), also spelled as polyglycolic acid, is a biodegradable Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter by microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. It is generally assumed to be a natural process, ...
is employed in hydrolysable stitches that slowly degrade after they are applied to a wound. The susceptibility of a polymer to degradation depends on its structure. Epoxies and chains containing aromatic functionalities are especially susceptible to
UV degradation In polymer chemistry Polymer chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry that focuses on the structures of chemicals, chemical synthesis, and Chemical property, chemical and physical properties of polymers and macromolecules. The principles and ...
while polyesters are susceptible to degradation by
hydrolysis Hydrolysis (; ) is any chemical reaction in which a molecule of water breaks one or more chemical bonds. The term is used broadly for substitution reaction, substitution, elimination reaction, elimination, and solvation reactions in which water ...
. Polymers containing an unsaturated backbone degrade via
ozone cracking Cracks can be formed in many different elastomers by ozone attack, and the characteristic form of attack of vulnerable rubbers is known as ozone cracking. The problem was formerly very common, especially in tires, but is now rarely seen in those ...
. Carbon based polymers are more susceptible to thermal degradation than
inorganic polymer An inorganic polymer is a polymer with a skeletal structure that does not include carbon atoms in the backbone. Polymers containing inorganic and organic components are sometimes called hybrid polymers, and most so-called inorganic polymers are hy ...
s such as
polydimethylsiloxane Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), also known as dimethylpolysiloxane or dimethicone, belongs to a group of polymeric organosilicon compounds that are commonly referred to as silicones. PDMS is the most widely used silicon-based organic compound, organi ...
and are therefore not ideal for most high-temperature applications. The degradation of polyethylene occurs by random scission—a random breakage of the bonds that hold the
atom Every atom is composed of a atomic nucleus, nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus. The nucleus is made of one or more protons and a number of neutrons. Only the most common variety of hydrogen has no neutrons. Every solid, l ...
s of the polymer together. When heated above 450 °C, polyethylene degrades to form a mixture of hydrocarbons. In the case of chain-end scission, monomers are released and this process is referred to as unzipping or
depolymerization Depolymerization (or depolymerisation) is the process of converting a polymer A polymer (; Greek ''wikt:poly-, poly-'', "many" + ''wikt:-mer, -mer'', "part") is a Chemical substance, substance or material consisting of very large molecules cal ...
. Which mechanism dominates will depend on the type of polymer and temperature; in general, polymers with no or a single small substituent in the repeat unit will decompose via random-chain scission. The sorting of polymer waste for recycling purposes may be facilitated by the use of the
resin identification code The ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System, often abbreviated RIC, is a set of symbols appearing on plastic products that identify the Synthetic resin, plastic resin out of which the product is made. It was developed in 1988 by t ...
s developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry to identify the type of plastic.

## Product failure

Failure of
safety-critical A safety-critical system (SCS) or life-critical system is a system whose failure or malfunction may result in one (or more) of the following outcomes: * death Death is the Irreversible process, irreversible cessation of all biological pr ...
polymer components can cause serious accidents, such as fire in the case of cracked and degraded polymer fuel lines. Chlorine-induced cracking of acetal resin plumbing joints and
polybutylene Polybutylene (polybutene-1, poly(1-butene), PB-1) is a polyolefin A polyolefin is a type of polymer with the general formula (CH2CHR)n where R is an alkyl group. They are usually derived from a small set of simple olefins (alkenes). Dominant in ...
pipes has caused many serious floods in domestic properties, especially in the US in the 1990s. Traces of
chlorine Chlorine is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Cl and atomic number 17. The second-lightest of the halogens, it appears between fluorine and bromine in the periodic table and its properties are mostly intermediate betwee ...
in the water supply attacked polymers present in the plumbing, a problem which occurs faster if any of the parts have been poorly
extruded Extrusion is a process used to create objects of a fixed cross section (geometry), cross-sectional profile by pushing material through a Die (manufacturing), die of the desired cross-section. Its two main advantages over other manufacturing pro ...
or injection molded. Attack of the acetal joint occurred because of faulty molding, leading to cracking along the threads of the fitting where there is
stress concentration In solid mechanics, a stress concentration (also called a stress raiser or a stress riser) is a location in an object where the stress (mechanics), stress is significantly greater than the surrounding region. Stress concentrations occur when the ...
. Polymer oxidation has caused accidents involving
medical device A medical device is any device intended to be used for medical purposes. Significant potential for hazards are inherent when using a device for medical purposes and thus medical devices must be proved safe and effective with reasonable assura ...
s. One of the oldest known failure modes is ozone cracking caused by chain scission when
ozone Ozone (), or trioxygen, is an inorganic molecule with the chemical formula . It is a pale blue gas with a distinctively pungent smell. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic Allotropy, allotrope , breaking down i ...
gas attacks susceptible
elastomer An elastomer is a polymer with viscoelasticity (i.e. both viscosity and elasticity) and with weak intermolecular forces, generally low Young's modulus and high failure strain compared with other materials. The term, a portmanteau of ''ela ...
s, such as
natural rubber Rubber, also called India rubber, latex, Amazonian rubber, ''caucho'', or ''caoutchouc'', as initially produced, consists of polymers of the organic compound isoprene, with minor impurities of other organic compounds. Thailand, Malaysia, and ...
and
nitrile rubber Nitrile rubber, also known as nitrile butadiene rubber, NBR, Buna-N, and acrylonitrile butadiene rubber, is a synthetic rubber derived from acrylonitrile (ACN) and butadiene. Trade names include Perbunan, Nipol, Krynac and Europrene. This rubber is ...
. They possess double bonds in their repeat units which are cleaved during
ozonolysis In organic chemistry Organic chemistry is a subdiscipline within chemistry involving the science, scientific study of the structure, properties, and reactions of organic compounds and organic materials, i.e., matter in its various forms that c ...
. Cracks in fuel lines can penetrate the bore of the tube and cause fuel leakage. If cracking occurs in the engine compartment, electric sparks can ignite the
gasoline Gasoline (; ) or petrol (; ) (see ) is a transparent, petroleum-derived flammable liquid that is used primarily as a fuel in most Spark-ignition engine, spark-ignited internal combustion engines (also known as petrol engines). It consists ...
and can cause a serious fire. In medical use degradation of polymers can lead to changes of physical and chemical characteristics of implantable devices.
Nylon 66 Nylon 66 (loosely written nylon 6-6, nylon 6/6, nylon 6,6, or nylon 6:6) is a type of polyamide or nylon Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers composed of polyamides (polymer, repeating units linked by amide links ...
is susceptible to
acid hydrolysis In organic chemistry Organic chemistry is a subdiscipline within chemistry involving the science, scientific study of the structure, properties, and reactions of organic compounds and organic materials, i.e., matter in its various forms that con ...
, and in one accident, a fractured fuel line led to a spillage of diesel into the road. If
diesel fuel Diesel fuel , also called diesel oil, is any liquid fuel specifically designed for use in a diesel engine The diesel engine, named after Rudolf Diesel, is an internal combustion engine in which Combustion, ignition of the diesel fuel, f ...
leaks onto the road, accidents to following cars can be caused by the slippery nature of the deposit, which is like
black ice Black ice, sometimes called clear ice, is a thin coating of glaze (ice), glaze ice on a surface, especially on streets. The ice itself is not black, but visually transparency (optics), transparent, allowing the often black road below to be seen ...
. Furthermore, the
asphalt concrete Asphalt concrete (commonly called asphalt, blacktop, or pavement in North America, and tarmac, bitumen macadam, or rolled asphalt in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) is a composite material A composite material (also called a ...
road surface will suffer damage as a result of the diesel fuel dissolving the
asphaltene Asphaltenes are molecular substances that are found in crude oil Petroleum, also known as crude oil, or simply oil, is a naturally occurring yellowish-black liquid mixture of mainly hydrocarbons, and is found in geological formations. The nam ...
s from the composite material, this resulting in the degradation of the asphalt surface and structural integrity of the road.

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Biopolymer Biopolymers are natural polymers produced by the cells of Organism, living organisms. Like other polymers, biopolymers consist of monomeric units that are Covalent bond, covalently bonded in chains to form larger molecules. There are three main c ...
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Ideal chain Ideal may refer to: Philosophy * Ideal (ethics), values that one actively pursues as goals * Platonic ideal, a philosophical idea of trueness of form, associated with Plato Mathematics * Ideal (ring theory) In ring theory, a branch of abs ...
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Catenation In chemistry, catenation is the chemical bond, bonding of atoms of the same Chemical element, element into a series, called a ''chain''. A chain or a Ring (chemistry), ring shape may be ''open'' if its ends are not bonded to each other (an open-c ...
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Inorganic polymer An inorganic polymer is a polymer with a skeletal structure that does not include carbon atoms in the backbone. Polymers containing inorganic and organic components are sometimes called hybrid polymers, and most so-called inorganic polymers are hy ...
* Important publications in polymer chemistry *
Oligomer In chemistry and biochemistry, an oligomer () is a molecule that consists of a few repeating units which could be derived, actually or conceptually, from smaller molecules, monomer, monomers.Quote: ''Oligomer molecule: A molecule of intermediate ...
* Polymer adsorption * Polymer classes *
Polymer engineering Polymer engineering is generally an engineering field that designs, analyses, and modifies polymer materials. Polymer engineering covers aspects of the petrochemical industry, polymerization, structure and characterization of polymers, properties of ...
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Polymerization In polymer chemistry, polymerization (American English), or polymerisation (British English), is a process of reacting monomer, monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form polymer chains or three-dimensional networks. There are ...
* Polymery (botany) * Reactive compatibilization *
Sequence-controlled polymer A sequence-controlled polymer is a macromolecule A macromolecule is a very large molecule important to biophysical processes, such as a protein or nucleic acid. It is composed of thousands of covalent bond, covalently bonded atoms. Many macr ...
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Shape-memory polymer Shape-memory polymers (SMPs) are polymeric smart materials that have the ability to return from a deformed state (temporary shape) to their original (permanent) shape when induced by an external stimulus (trigger), such as temperature change. ...
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Sol–gel process In materials science, the sol–gel process is a method for producing solid materials from small molecules. The method is used for the manufacturing, fabrication of metal oxides, especially the oxides of silicon (Si) and titanium (Ti). The process ...
* Supramolecular polymer *
Thermoplastic A thermoplastic, or thermosoft plastic, is any plastic polymer material that becomes pliable or moldable at a certain elevated temperature and solidifies upon cooling. Most thermoplastics have a high molecular weight. The polymer chains associat ...
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Thermosetting polymer In materials science, a thermosetting polymer, often called a thermoset, is a polymer that is obtained by Reversible process (thermodynamics), irreversibly hardening ("curing (chemistry), curing") a soft solid or viscous liquid prepolymer (resin) ...

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