Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Nourhan Essam
Chemistry is a natural science that has existed since ancient times. Chemistry applications in ancient civilizations have been linked to mining, dying, medicine, and glassmaking. civilizations, including the ancient Egyptian, Babylonian and Indian, succeeded in using chemistry in practical ways in those fields, but they did not develop theoretical knowledge that could be considered a science.
The seventeenth century witnessed the beginning of modern chemistry, when Boyle conducted his research on the elements, Joseph Priestly recognized oxygen gas, Henry Cavendish discovered the composition of water, and John Dalton developed the modern atomic theory.
Chemistry is the science of matter and the study of the properties, structure, composition, behavior, interactions, and variables of matter. Chemistry is related to different branches of science, including physics, astronomy, geology, and biology.
In the present era, there are many chemistry applications in life. In this article, we will discuss one of the most important applications of chemistry in industry: polymers. Polymers play a very important role in many different industries because of their unique properties.
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Discover Polymers: The Building Blocks of Modern Materials
A polymer is a large molecule, or macromolecule, composed of many repeated subunits. Polymers are obtained through the chemical reaction of monomers.
We can define a monomer as a small molecule that can react with another molecule from the same type or another type in a suitable condition to form the chain of the polymer. This process happens in nature to form natural polymers, and can also happen synthetically by humans to form synthetic polymers.
Examples of Polymers in Our Lives
Polymers could be organic or inorganic, and it may be natural or artificial.
Let’s explore some examples of oolymers in our lives:
- Natural Polymers: Diamonds, graphite, garnet, feldspar, and talc are considered inorganic natural polymers, while proteins, cellulose, and starch are organic polymers.
- Synthetic Polymers: These include concrete, boron nitride, nylon, teflon, polyethylene, polyester, epoxy, and many superconductors.
Despite its great importance in the current era, polymers have a negative impact on the environment that cannot be ignored, as it is not biodegradable. This is why it is considered a major form of environmental pollution, and it is getting worse each day.
Common Polymers and Their Uses
There are various industrial uses of polymers. They are used in vehicles and airplanes for their light weight and durability compared to metals. This saves fuel consumption. They are also used in building materials, adhesives, ceramics, fibers, clothing and concrete.
Let’s explore more common polymers and their uses:
Carbon polymers in the automotive industry
Carbon polymers are widely used in the manufacturing of next-generation lightweight, safer and more fuel-efficient vehicles. It is a type of fibre-reinforced plastic that has strong durability coupled with light weight, and it is formed from carbon fibre-reinforced polymers mixed with a hard plastic compound.
Silicon Polymers in Medical Cosmetics
Artificial silicon skin is one of the most important future applications of polymers in the field of cosmetics. It will have the ability to fight aging, help tighten skin, and reduce wrinkles and periorbital puffiness. It can also be used by people who suffer from skin diseases such as eczema.
Polymers in Plastics
Crude oil in petrochemical plants is converted into monomers by breaking the bonds, then. these monomers are bonded into long chains, called polymers, and. the final product formation phase begins after the addition of materials such as that offer various supporting functions, including reinforcing, laminates, and plasticizers, to improve its properties. Plastic is used in many different industries the production of numerous products, including power cables, electronics, and household appliances, packaging and many other industries. It is also widely used in packaging.
Chemistry Applications of Polymers
Polymers have a wide range of applications in various fields, including chemistry. Here are some key chemistry applications of polymers:
Biodegradable polymers, which are called biopolymers, have functional groups found in natural polymers and can be degraded by bacterial reactions. An example of a biodegradable polymer is Poly-hydroxybutyrate-co-hydroxy valerate (PHBV). They are used in reducing waste volume, packaging, agriculture, medicine and several other fields.
Engineering plastics and synthetic metals
Engineering plastics polymers have high strength and resistance to chemical, thermal, and abrasion, similar to ceramics and metals, making them suitable for engineering applications such as machinery of all kinds, medical applications, and making containers like kitchenware, cookware, and bathroom products.
Examples of engineering plastics include silicone, polycarbonate, nylon, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC) and polysulfone.
Intrinsically conducting polymers (ICP) or synthetic metals
These polymers are similar to metals and semiconductors in their electrical, magnetic, electronic, and optical properties. ICP can be used in energy conversion and storage, and electronic devices such as sensors, biomedical devices such as drug delivery and more.
Nanocarriers and multifunctional nanocarriers
Polymers, especially dendrimers, exhibit huge potential as versatile multifunctional nanocarriers due to their properties such as structure, monodispersity, nanosize, and biocompatibility.
They can encapsulate or attach various APIs by covalent or noncovalent bonds, making them valuable in various applications such as enhancing bioavailability, minimizing side effects and providing means for active targeting.
These applications demonstrate the diverse and significant role of polymers in the field of chemistry, contributing to advancements in various areas of science and technology.
The Future of Polymers | Polymer Technology and Innovation
According to a recent study in the Science journal, scientists from Northwestern University have developed polymers with removable, recyclable and reusable parts that help reduce environmental pollution caused by chemistry applications of polymers.
According to an article at Chemistry View, the Magazine of Chemistry Europe, the functions of polymers will continue to evolve to further meet our technological needs, e.g., in automation, digitalization, new mobility concepts, biomedicine, or space exploration. According to the authors, the high-tech devices we use every day are only possible thanks to specialty polymer concepts and materials.
Holger Frey, Professor of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Mainz, notes that functions such as on-demand (rapid) biodegradation, programmability, formability, adaptability, and self-healing are currently under research.
Christoph Weder, Professor for Polymer Chemistry and Materials at the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, suspects that “the development of multi-responsive polymer systems and their translation into advanced technologies will be important aspects of the field for decades to come”.
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