Several processes happen around us without us even imagining. Have you heard of polymerization, for example? This chemical reaction is responsible for creating many of the objects, materials, and compounds that we interact with on a daily basis.
So what is polymerization, and why is it so important? If you ever wonder about this, you’re in the right place! In the following exclusive content, Polyexcel explains all about this reaction and how essential it is for humanity. Just keep reading!
What is polymerization?
In other content on our blog, we explain in detail what polymers are. In simple terms, they are macromolecules formed from small molecules, which we call monomers. This is where the name “polymer” comes from: “poly” means “many”, while “mers” means “parts”.
However, these parts depend on a process to come together. This is the polymerization reaction, which forms the macromolecules, which we call polymers, from the junction of monomers.
This process is more common than you think. At all times and in all places, there are molecules passing by. This is because polymerization can be a natural reaction. Examples of the result of this operation are latex, cellulose, and starch.
The polymerization can also be synthetic, forming the synthetic polymers. The compounds resulting from this laboratory process are also well known to us. Some examples of this are polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene and polyester.
Types of polymerization
As we explained above, there are two main types of polymerization: natural and synthetic. However, these are not the only ways to classify this type of chemical reaction. Both natural and synthetic polymers can be the result of condensation polymerization or addition polymerization.
Condensation polymerization was the first type discovered in 1909 by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian chemist. He invented Bakelite, the first synthetic condensation polymer: a synthetic resin formed from the polymerization of phenol and methane.
Condensation polymers are formed in stages. It is a slow process, as the monomers are joined individually, from molecule to molecule, until reaching a polymer.
The main characteristic of this process is that, during the chemical reaction, one of the molecules is discarded, not being present in the final polymer. Therefore, the results can also be called elimination polymers.
In addition to Bakelite, we use other condensation polymers, such as:
- polyester: used in clothes, bottles, upholstery, musical instruments, etc.;
- polyamide (nylon): found in toothbrushes, screws, clothes, etc.;
- silicone: used in implants, kitchen utensils, cosmetics, molds, etc.
Searching about this topic, you may come across the term “rearrangement polymers”. This type of compound is the result of rearrangement polymerization, a differentiated condensation reaction. Polyurethane is one of the polymers resulting from it.
Addition polymerization occurs via a chain reaction, in which the pi bonds of monomers must be broken. When this happens, a free valence of carbon atoms appears in each molecule.
As a result, these molecules can join each other, forming a polymer. Basically, there are three main processes: initiation, propagation and termination.
Some examples of well-known addition polymers are:
- polyethylene: used in diapers, bottles, packaging, etc.;
- polypropylene: used in plastic chairs, packaging, fabrics, crates, etc.;
- polyvinyl chloride (PVC): present in shoes, tubes, cables, medical and hospital products, etc.
Degree of polymerization
The degree of polymerization is another recurring term when talking about polymerization. This concept is simple: it represents the amount of meres that make up a polymer. However, it is very important to the polymeric industry.
The analysis of the degree of polymerization of a polymer determines several fundamental factors about the studied compound. The value of a degree of polymerization can vary according to the molar mass and polydispersity of a polymeric compound.
Keep learning with Polyexcel!
Did you like to know a little more about the universe of polymers? So, enjoy your visit and keep learning with the content we publish here, on the Polyexcel blog! There are several subjects for you to discover even more about these compounds that are so significant for our daily lives.
Polyexcel produces quality polymeric compounds for you to have a better life! If you want to know more about what we do, contact us. It will be a pleasure to introduce our products to you!