Defining and Identifying Polymers

News: The Curiosity Podcast is here! Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, SoundCloud and RSS.

We use polymer-based products everyday, but we probably don't realize it. For example, what do CDs, sneakers, paper plates and contact lenses all have in common? Aside from sitting in your junk drawer, these items are all made from polymers—long strings of molecules linked together. These microscopically tiny structures are made of repeating sets of individual molecules known as monomers, which unleash varying sets of physical and chemical properties when strung together into a polymer. Silicon, carbon, plastic and rubber are all examples of the wide variety of textures and scientific makeup polymers exhibit when monomers are mixed and matched in assorted ways. Think of monomers as basic elements of a recipe—flour, sugar, oil. When put together in different combinations and in varying amounts, the result can be a cake, cream puff, biscuit or homemade glue.

How common are these molecular chain links? Well, because hundreds of objects in everyday life (your computer keyboard for example) are comprised of polymers, they're basically impossible to avoid. This playlist takes polymers out from under the microscope and into your hands with poly-based crafts, experiments and everyday applications.


Love getting smarter? Sign up to our newsletter and get our best content in your inbox!

Share the knowledge!