What is a polymer? What is a monomer?

A polymer is a substance made of many parts. “Poly” means many, and “mer” means parts. When a molecule is used to produce a polymer it’s called “monomer.”- “mono” meaning single. So a polymer is a substance made of many parts, and a monomer is just a single part of a polymer.

Most of the time the parts of a polymer are small molecules that are reacting together, even up to millions of times. Then, when all the molecules acting together, it creates a monomer. When more and more monomers are acting together, it makes a repeating chain.

How do polymers and monomers work?

Some polymers are man-made. They are chemically made by combining small molecules which are low in weight, called monomers. When they join, they make a polymer. To help you understand how this works, think about people holding hands. One person would represent a monomer, and when two people join hands it makes a polymer. The more and more monomers, the larger the polymer.

How are they used in our everyday lives?

We use polymers all the time in our daily lives. Polymers include many important proteins and nucleic acids, such as cellulose, rubber, silica, and feldspar. Some polymers are natural, while others can be man-made. Some of the natural ones are those that are listed above. Some examples of manufactured ones are plastics, fake rubber, and nylon. Others include things like laquer and paint and things like pressure-sensitive tape.

Why are they important?

Polymers are very important to humans. In fact, humans’ DNA is made from polymers. Also, everything around us is made from them. For example, a basketball is also made from polymers. It’s important to know about polymers, because the more we learn about them, the more we will know how to use them. An example of this is a plastic bottle. If we learn how polymers work, we can reuse them. Knowing more about polymers will definitely help our environment.

The same thing goes for monomers. If we learn more about monomers, we can have more knowledge about them. By having more knowledge, we will know how to use them for the better of humans and the environment. For example, if someone wanted to start a recycling company, they would need to know about polymers and monomers.
You could then learn how to use polymers and monomers to recycle.

Pictures
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This is an example of bottles made from polymers that are ready to be recycled.

Screen_shot_2011-02-16_at_3.43.22_PM.png
This is an example of plastic pipes also made from polymers.

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Here is a basketball which is made from polymers as well.

Resources
Cochran, M. F. "Polymers They're Everywhere!." National Geographic Society. American Chemistry Council, 2007. Web. 8 Feb. 2011. <http://school.nettrekker.com/goExternal?np=/external.ftl&pp=/error.ftl&evlCode=43216&productName=school&HOMEPAGE=M>.

Polymer. (2011). In Encyclopedia Americana. Retrieved February 8, 2011, from Grolier Online http://e21.grolier.com/article?id=0317870-00&product_id=ea&searchTerm=polymer&queryParser=Grolier_En&docKey=Li4vLi4vc2VhcmNoL2NvbnRlbnQvZWE0L3RleHQvMDA1LzAzMTc4NzAtMDAuaHRtbEBnbzI*

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