Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

Science

Designer polymers

Page:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  1. Next

A lot of everyday items are made from polymers. Many of these polymers are not biodegradable - microbes cannot digest them and they take a long time to break down. Polymers are usually disposed of by burying them in landfill sites or burning them in incinerators. These methods of disposal cause environmental problems, and waste valuable resources.

The properties of polymers depend on the structure and bonding found in their molecules. Smart materials such as Gore-Tex® have more useful properties than other polymers.

Some common polymers and their uses

Monomersmonomer: A monomer is a simple molecule. can join together to form polymerspolymers: Polymers are large molecules formed from many identical smaller molecules (monomers).. Addition polymers are formed from alkenes. For example:

  • ethene can polymerise to form polyethene, which is also called polythene
  • styrene can polymerise to form polystyrene

Ethene makes polyethene

  • a typical use of polythene is for a plastic shopping bag or plastic bottle
  • a typical use of polystyrene is for insulation and protective packaging

Other polymers

Some polymers are not made from alkene monomers. These are called condensation polymers. Nylon and polyesters are like this. They can be drawn into very fine fibres and woven into cloth for clothing. Often, natural fibres such as cotton are mixed with nylon or polyester fibres to make a soft but hard-wearing cloth.

Page:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  1. Next

Back to Carbon chemistry index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.