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Macromolecules

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 29 December 2011

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the giant molecules that form the basis of all life. Macromolecules, also known as polymers, are long chains of atoms. They form the proteins that make up our bodies, as well as many of the materials of modern life. Man's ability to mimic the structure of macromolecules has led to the invention of plastics such as nylon, paints and adhesives. Most of our clothes are made of macromolecules, and our food is macromolecular.

The medical sciences are making increasingly sophisticated use of macromolecules, from growing replacement skin and bone to their increasing use in drug delivery. One of the most famous macromolecules is DNA, an infinitely more complex polymer than man has ever managed to produce. We've only known about macromolecules for just over a century, so what is the story behind them and how might they change our lives in the future?

With:

Tony Ryan
Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield

Athene Donald
Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Robinson College

Charlotte Williams
Reader in Polymer Chemistry and Catalysis at Imperial College, London

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

  • FURTHER READING

    Walter Gratzer, ‘Giant Molecules: From Nylon to Nanotubes’ (OUP, 2011)

    A. Y. Grosberg and A. R. Khokhlov, ‘Giant Molecules: Here, There, and Everywhere’, 2nd edition (World Scientific Press, 2010)

    Paul J. Flory, ‘Principles of Polymer Chemistry’ (Cornell University Press, 1953)

    Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, ‘Scaling Concepts in Polymer Physics’ (Cornell University Press, 1979)

    Robert J. Young and Peter A. Lovell, ‘Introduction to Polymers’, 3rd edition (CRC Press, 2010)

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