Emily has taught science and has a master's degree in education.
What are Polymers?
Have you ever heard the tale of The Three Little Pigs? This fable shows that building a house from bricks is far better than sticks or straw. If you look closely at a brick house, you'll see that each brick is uniform. They are layered in a repeated pattern to design that house. Bricks can be used to build many structures, from sidewalks to very large buildings. There are many structures found in nature or made by humans that are made in a similar way, like polymers.
Polymers are very big molecules made up of many smaller molecules layered together in a repeating pattern. In fact, the word polymer is Greek for 'many parts.' The smaller molecules that come together to form polymers are called monomers--small units that link together over and over to form a large polymer. Think of monomers like paper clips that link together to form a chain, and the chain is a polymer.
Polymers can result in some very unique materials, both naturally occurring and man-made. Let's explore some examples of man-made and natural polymers.
The invention of many polymers over many generations have led to huge advancements for humanity. The paper you write on every day, for example, is a man-made polymer made from many parts of wood pulp compressed and flattened. If you looked at paper under a very powerful microscope, you would see that it's made up of smaller molecules arranged in a repeated pattern.
Plastics, like the kind found in toys and grocery bags, are another example of a polymer. They're often made from crude oil found in the ground. The oil is manufactured down to extract the small monomers that are joined together to form plastic.
Polymers Found in Nature
Humans take what they find in nature and adapt it to their own needs. All plants and trees are made of polymers, and we utilize them to make everyday items. For instance, wood from trees makes for sturdy furniture (and is even used to make paper). The monomer that makes up wood is called glucose. If you were to look at a piece of wood under a strong microscope, you would see that it's made up of small, repeated glucose molecules. Glucose is actually a very common monomer--it's also found in cotton, potatoes and corn!
Polymers are very big molecules made up of many smaller molecules layered together in a repeating pattern. The smaller molecules are called monomers. Some polymers are natural, like wood, potatoes and cotton, while others are man-made, like paper and plastic.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack
Resources created by teachers for teachers
I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.