Understanding Polymers, Types, Examples

Polymer is a familiar term in our ears, this is because almost all of the material we use is made from polymer. For example, the smartphone casing that you are using is actually made of polymer, the paralon pipe to drain water is made of polymer, the body of the car is also made of polymer, we cannot escape from the polymer.

Chemistry specifically studies these polymeric materials such as their manufacture, properties and classification. This article will discuss the definition of polymers , their types and classifications and examples of polymer products and their use.

Polymers and Monomers

Before entering into a polymer, we should learn about the monomers that make up the polymer itself. A monomer is a small molecule that can be combined with other molecules repeatedly to form a longer complex and is called a polymer, in other words that a monomer is a constituent unit of a polymer.

Monomers can form polymers through reactions that cause one monomer to form bonds with other monomers to reach long chains and larger sizes called the polymerization process.

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  • Polymer
    • Polymer Classification
      • Polymer classification based on origin
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Whereas polymers are chemical compounds with molecules that bind to each other in long repeated chains. The word polymer comes from ” poly ” which means a lot and ” mer ” which means part and can be interpreted as a small part that is many or repetitive. Because of its structure, polymers have unique properties that can be modified and adapted for various uses.

Natural polymers such as rubber have been widely used by humans for thousands of years. Rubber as a natural polymer has very high elasticity properties produced from polymer chains formed by nature. This elasticity or elasticity is obtained from the chemical structure of the rubber itself which allows this material to be elastic.

Today polymers have very broad applications in the field of life. Starting from as a plastic product packaging, as a bulletproof vest coating material, even as a coating material that can withstand high temperatures.

This is obtained through chemical modification of the polymer structure so that polymer materials which have better properties and as needed are obtained. There have been many studies that develop polymers and their properties.

Polymer Classification

Because of their diverse structures, these polymers also have very many classifications where each classification has a polymer with certain properties. The following classification of polymers that exist today;

Polymer classification based on origin

Based on the origin of this polymer is divided into several types, including;

Natural Polymers

The easiest way to classify polymers is based on the source of origin. Natural polymers are polymers that are formed naturally in nature and come from sources such as plants and animals. Examples of these natural polymers include proteins found in humans and animals, cellulose and starch found in plants, or rubber that can be found in plants as well.

Synthetic Polymers

In addition to natural polymers, polymers can also be made or synthesized by humans in the laboratory or can be called synthetic polymers. At present there are already many polymer industries that are commercially developing these synthetic polymers on a large scale.

Most of these synthetic polymers are also used extensively in human life such as polyethylene as plastic or packaging products and nylon fibers commonly used in clothing.

Polymer classification based on monomers

Meanwhile, when viewed from the monomer, this polymer is divided into;


As the name implies homopolymers are polymers composed of the same monomer or only composed of one type of monomer. One monomer is bonded with each other to form long chains of polymers. Examples of homopolymers are polyethylene, cellulose, polystyrene, and others.


A copolymer is a polymer composed of 2 or more different types of monomers. 2 or more monomers are arranged with certain configurations in the formation of the polymer chain. Examples of copolymers are dacron, protein, DNA, melain, and others.

Polymer classification based on structure

To be seen from its structure the contents of this polymer are divided into several types, including;

Linear Polymers

This linear polymer has a structure in the form of a long straight chain and has no branches, monomers are interconnected together to form a straight chain. Polymers with linear structures have the property of high melting points and high densities.

An example of this linear polymer in our lives is poly vinyl chloride (PVC) which is usually used as a pipe or paralon.

Branched Polymers

A branched polymer is a straight chain linear polymer that has branches in its chain. In this type of polymer, monomers combine with each other to form long and straight chains with several monomers also forming branch chains of different lengths.

The branched polymer has the property of lower density and also lower melting point. An example of a branched polymer is Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) which is widely used as a plastic bag.

Cross-linked Polymers

In this type of polymer, monomers are linked together by forming three-dimensional networks and forming strong covalent bonds.

This type of polymer has excellent properties in terms of hardness, has a high molecular weight, and has a very high melting point that can even be called a thermoset or heat resistance. Examples of crosslinked polymers are melamine.

The classification of polymers is based on their formation or polymerization

To be seen from the formation or polymerization consists of;

Addition Polymers

This addition type polymer is a polymer formed by repeated addition of a monomer molecule. In addition to the formation of polymers there is no elimination or by-products such as water or alcohol. Addition polymers always have the same empirical formula as the monomers.

The same example is the ethene monomer (CH 2 = CH 2 ) which then polymerizes into polyethene – (CH 2 -CH 2 ) n-.

Condensation Polymers

Condensation polymers are polymers formed through a combination of monomers followed by the elimination of small molecules or produce byproducts such as water, alcohol, and others. An example of a condensation polymer is Nylon-66 where water molecules are released.

The classification of polymers based on their properties

For its own nature polymers are divided into various forms, including the following;

Thermoplastic Polymers

Thermoplastic polymers are long chain polymers which when heated will soften or melt and re-harden when cooled. This type of polymer has thermoplast properties due to intermolecular forces namely Van der Waal forces that hold the polymer chains together.

Thermoplastic polymers also do not contain crosslinks so that they can be melted or have a low melting point. Examples of thermoplastic polymers are polyethylene, polystyrene, PVC, and others.

Thermoset Polymers

Thermoset polymers are the opposite of thermoplastic polymers which in thermoset polymers when heated will not soften or melt because of their relatively high boiling points.

In this type of polymer can have a high melting point because of the crosslinking between monomers in one polymer chain so that the bond will be very strong and become heat resistant. Examples of thermoset polymers are Teflon, Bakelite, and others.


In addition to the two types of polymers above there are also elastomers which are solid polymers with high elasticity properties such as rubber. High elasticity polymers can be stretched easily with less force. Elastomers are elastic because the intermolecular forces are relatively weak making it possible to stretch, but when released they return to their original shape.



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