Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

30: Synthetic Polymers

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Synthetic polymer are man-made polymer that is not a biopolymer (e..g, proteins or complex carbohydrates). Synthetic polymers are mostly non-biodegradable and often synthesized from petroleum. The eight most common types of synthetic organic polymers are: Low-density polyethylene (LDPE), High-density polyethylene (HDPE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Polystyrene (PS), Nylon, nylon 6, nylon 6,6, Teflon (Polytetrafluoroethylene) and Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU).

    • 30.0: Chapter Objectives
    • 30.1: Chain-Growth Polymers
      Polymers resulting from additions to alkenes monomers are chain-growth polymers. In these processes each addition step results in a longer chain which ends in a reactive site. The mechanism of each addition step is the same, and each addition step adds another monomer to extend the chain by one repeating unit. The most common and thermodynamically favored chemical transformations of alkenes are addition reactions.
    • 30.2: Stereochemistry of Polymerization - Ziegler-Natta Catalysts
      An efficient and stereospecific catalytic polymerization procedure was developed by Karl Ziegler (Germany) and Giulio Natta (Italy) in the 1950's. Ziegler-Natta catalysts are prepared by reacting certain transition metal halides with organometallic reagents. The catalyst formed by reaction of triethylaluminum with titanium tetrachloride is commonly used. Ziegler-Natta catalysts allowed for the first time, the stereochemically controlled synthesis of polymers with virtually no branching.
    • 30.3: Copolymers
      Homopolymers are made with a single monomer and are made up of identical repeating units. Copolymers is made when two or more different monomers are polymerized together to create a polymer with variable repeating units. For example the monomers hexafluoropropene and vinylidene fluoride can be polymerized together to create the copolymer vitron which is used to create durable gaskets.
    • 30.4: Step-Growth Polymers
      Often, the reactions used to link these monomers include multiple nucleophilic acyl substitutions. Step-growth polymerizations usually use two different monomers, neither of which would undergo polymerization on its own. The two monomers are multifuntional and complementary to each other, such that each provides the other with a reactive partner. In this section, we will be focusing on monomers which are difunctional, meaning they contain two of the same reactive functional group.
    • 30.5: Olefin Metathesis Polymerization
      Alkene metathesis reactions are gaining wide popularity in synthesizing unsaturated olefinic compounds. Central to this catalysis is a metal carbene intermediate that reacts with olefins to give different olefinic compounds. When two different olefin substrates are used, the reaction is called the “cross metathesis” owing to the fact that the olefinic ends are exchanged. In a process called, olefin metathesis polymerization, unsaturated olefinic polymers can be created by a metathesis reaction.
    • 30.6: Polymer Structure and Physical Properties
      To account for the physical differences between the different types of polymers, the nature of the aggregate macromolecular structure, or morphology, of each substance must be considered. Because polymer molecules are so large, they generally pack together in a non-uniform fashion, with ordered or crystalline-like regions, called crystallites, mixed together with disordered or amorphous domains. In some cases the entire solid may be amorphous, composed entirely of tangled macromolecules.

    30: Synthetic Polymers is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Steven Farmer & Dietmar Kennepohl.

    • Was this article helpful?