What are Polymers and their applications


Plastics (or polymers) are generally organic compounds  based upon carbon and hydrogen. They are very large molecular structures. Usually they are of low density and are not stable at high temperatures. We come into everyday contact with polymers more than with any other kind of material. Polymers have an immense range of properties; some  have fibers strong enough to stop a bullet and some are soft  and stretchable like rubber bands. Familiar products made of  polymers include paints and protective coatings,  the clothes and shoes we wear, and  most of  the  materials in the electronic devices we use. Even the food we eat is polymeric, since  natural polymers make up most of what constitutes animals and plants. Polymers usually consist of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of covalently bonded units (called monomers) to form string-like macro-molecules. These can  be used as strings or they can be “stitched” together  into a network,  as in vulcanized  rubber  in automobile  tires.  Size is important: short strings might make up materials with properties  like wax,  while longer strings might constitute materials such as the ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene,  stronger than steel that  is used to make bullet-proof vests. Nature has been  making complex polymers of  this  size  for millions  of  years in  the form  of  DNA, and there are remarkable opportunities to  pursue in areas  of biotechnology. Because of their immense diversity,  we are on the verge of a major  expansion in what polymers can do and how we use them. Polymers can conduct electricity and emit light, and be used to produce transistors. They are the basis of the nanotechnology revolution through their use as photo resists.  They are used in medical devices and are vital elements  in the coming revolution in  nano-bio-technology. In the future, polymers can be expected to play a role  in almost all technological advances, since we can now control their molecular structure,  atom  by atom,  to form  synthetic polymers  with uses limited only by our imagination.

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