Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts


Polymers are long chain, giant organic molecules are assembled from many smaller molecules called monomers. Polymers consist of many repeating monomer units in long chains, sometimes with branching or cross-linking between the chains.

  • Addition Polymers
    An addition polymer is a polymer which is formed by an addition reaction, where many monomers bond together via rearrangement of bonds without the loss of any atom or molecule under specific conditions of heat, pressure, and/or the presence of a catalyst.
  • Condensation Polymers
    Condensation polymers are any kind of polymers formed through a condensation reaction—where molecules join together—losing small molecules as byproducts such as water or methanol, as opposed to addition polymers which involve the reaction of unsaturated monomers.
  • Introduction to Polymers
    Polymers are substances containing a large number of structural units joined by the same type of linkage. These substances often form into a chain-like structure. Polymers in the natural world have been around since the beginning of time. Starch, cellulose, and rubber all possess polymeric properties. Man-made polymers have been studied since 1832. Today, the polymer industry has grown to be larger than the aluminum, copper and steel industries combined.
  • Molecular Weights of Polymers
    Most polymers are not composed of identical molecules. The HDPE molecules, for example, are all long carbon chains, but the lengths may vary by thousands of monomer units. Because of this, polymer molecular weights are usually given as averages.
  • Polyethylene
    Polyethylene is the most popular plastic in the world. This is the polymer that makes grocery bags, shampoo bottles, children's toys, and even bullet proof vests. For such a versatile material, it has a very simple structure, the simplest of all commercial polymers. A molecule of polyethylene is nothing more than a long chain of carbon atoms, with two hydrogen atoms attached to each carbon atom.
  • Rubber Polymers
    Rubber is an example of an elastomer type polymer, where the polymer has the ability to return to its original shape after being stretched or deformed. The rubber polymer is coiled when in the resting state. The elastic properties arise from the its ability to stretch the chains apart, but when the tension is released the chains snap back to the original position. The majority of rubber polymer molecules contain at least some units derived from conjugated diene monomers.

Thumbnail: Space-filling model of a section of the polyethylene terephthalate polymer, also known as PET and PETE, a polyester used in most plastic bottles. Color code:   Carbon, C (black), Hydrogen, H (white), and Oxygen, O (red). Image used with permission (Public Domain; Jynto).