Different types of polymers their properties and examples

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Introduction of Polymers 

Modern life cannot be imagined without polymers. In order to manage our daily lives and easily, the importance of polymers is immense. If we take a closer look, we can see that most of the items used in our daily life are made of polymers. For example Brush, plastic cups, plastic bags, buckets,   toys, synthetic cloth, tyres, electrical insulating materials, etc. Even the proteins in our body are polymers. All these materials are made with different types of polymers. So, in this chapter, we will be discussing different types of polymers.

What are Polymers?

• A Polymer is a combination of many repeating subunits.
• The polymers are giant molecules with high molecular masses (103 -107u)
• These repeating subunits are called ‘monomers’.
• The word ‘polymer’ is derived from two Greek words, Poly – means ‘many’ and ‘Mer’ – means ‘unit or part’.

• For example the monomer ethylene gets linked with many other ethylene molecules to form polyethylene, or many vinyl chloride molecules combine to form polyvinyl chloride.

Common classifications of polymers

• Based on some special features (such as source, and structure) the following are some common polymers classifications.

1. Classification Based on Source.
2. Classification Based on Structure of Polymers
3. Classification Based on Mode of Polymerisation
4. Classification Based on Molecular Forces

Classification of Polymers Based on Source

• there are three subcategories-

  • 1. Natural polymers
  • 2. Semi-synthetic polymers
  • 3. Synthetic polymers

Natural polymers

  • Natural polymers are the most common type of polymers.
  • These are found in humans and animals.
  • Examples are resins and Rubber, Starch and Cellulose (found in Plants), and Proteins (found in Animals).

Semi-synthetic polymers

  • Semi-Synthetic polymers are produced artificially in labs by the modification of natural polymers.
  • For example – Cellulose acetate (rayon) and cellulose nitrate, are both Cellulose derivatives.

Synthetic polymers

  • Humans artificially produce synthetic polymers.
  • Due to high demand, these are produced commercially by industries.
  • Example: – Plastic (polythene), Nylon 6, 6, Synthetic rubbers (Buna – S)

Classification of Polymers based on the Structure of Polymers

• Polymers based on Structure are subdivided into three categories:

  1. Linear polymers
  2. Branched-chain polymers
  3. Cross-linked or Network polymers

Linear polymers

  • Monomers are united together to form a long, straight chain.
  • High melting and boiling points, high density and high tensile strength. (Due to well-packed structure)
  • Example: – High-density polythene, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Nylon.
  • This type of polymer is used to make bottles, Buckets, and PVC pipes.
Types of polymers
Linear polymers

Branched-chain polymers

  • Linear chain which has branches.
  • Low density, low melting points.
  • They are not well packed due to the formation of branches.
  • Low melting and boiling points, low density, and low tensile strength. (Due to the formation of branches, they are loosely tied)
  • Example: – Low-density polyethylene (LDPE).
  • Low-density polyethylene is used to manufacture plastic bags, dispensing bottles, tubing, and wash bottles.
Types of polymers
Branched Chain Polymers

Cross-linked or Network polymers

  • Bi-functional and tri-functional monomers form network polymers.
  • The monomers are linked together by strong covalent bonds.
  • A three-dimensional network formed by the monomers of the cross-linked polymers.
  • Example: – Bakelite, Melamine.
  • Bakelite is widely used in the manufacturing of electrical insulating materials.
  • Melamine is primarily used in the manufacturing of floor tile, kitchenware, and fabrics.
Crossed Link or Network Polymers
Crossed Link or Network Polymers

Classification of Polymers based on the Mode of Polymerisation

  • On the basis of the mode of polymerization, the polymers can also be classified into two subgroups.
  1. Addition polymers
  2. Condensation polymers

Addition polymers

  • The repeated addition of monomeric units forms this polymer. (Molecules of single monomer)
  • In addition, the polymerization reaction never produced any by-products (e.g. water)
  • The monomeric unit is unsaturated or possesses double bonds.
  • Additional polymer is non-biodegradable and resistant to acids.
  • Example:- Polythene, polypropene.
Types of polymers
Addition polymers

Condensation polymers

  • This polymer is formed by the repeated addition of two different monomeric units. (Molecule of two different monomers)
  • The condensation reaction produced by-products (usually water)
  • The monomeric unit contains reactive functional groups that attend to the molecules.
  • Carboxylic acid and alcohol are the two functional groups.
  • Biodegradable and can be hydrolyzed by acids.
  • Example:- nylon 6,  Terylene (Dacron), Nylon 6, 6
Types of polymers
Condensation polymers
Types of polymers
Condensation Polymers

Classification of polymers based on Molecular Force

• Mechanical properties of polymers depend on the intermolecular force of the polymer.
• Some of the mechanical properties are elasticity, toughness, tensile strength
• Intermolecular forces governing these mechanical properties…..

1. Van der Waals forces
2. Hydrogen bonds are present in the polymer.

• Based on the intermolecular forces present in the polymer, polymers are divided into four subclasses. they are _
1. Elastomers
2. Fibers
3. Thermoplastic polymers
4. Thermosetting polymers

Elastomers or Rubber 

  • Weakest intermolecular force (Van der Waals force) of attraction between molecules.
  • Due to this weakest force, the polymer can be stretched by applying some force and when the force is released the polymer returns to its original shape.
  • Example: – Buna-S, Buna-N, Neoprene.


  • Strong molecular forces (like hydrogen bonding).
  • High tensile strength and high modulus.
  • Example: – Polyamides (nylon 6, 6), Polyesters (Terylene)

Thermoplastic polymers

  • Long chain linear or slightly branched molecules.
  • It becomes soft on heating and hard on cooling.
  • Its intermolecular forces of attraction are intermediate between elastomers and fibres.
  • Weak intermolecular forces of attraction due to Weak Vander Waals force
  • The addition polymerization reaction prepares the thermoplastic polymer.
  • Low molecular weights.
  • Soluble in organic solvents.
  • Example: – Polystyrene, Polythene, Polyvinyls.
Types of polymers
Thermoplastic Polymers

Thermosetting polymers

  • Heavily branched, cross-linked polymer.
  • Also known as thermoset
  • They are also called rigid-temperature polymers.
  • The condensation polymerization reaction prepares the thermosetting polymer.
  • Cannot be softened by heating.
  • The strong intermolecular force of attraction is due to strong covalent bonds.
  • These are hard, strong, more brittle, and cannot be reused,
  • Thermosetting polymers don’t soften on heating.
  • High molecular weights.
  • Insoluble in organic solvents.
  • Examples: – Polyester, Epoxy-resin, Urea-formaldehyde, and Melamine. 
Types of polymers
Thermosetting polymers

Classification of Polymers Infographics 

Classification of Polymers
Classification of Polymers

List of Polymers, Monomers, and Uses

Polypropylene• Propane• Manufacturing of Ropes, Toys, Pipes, Fibres
Polystyrene• Styrene• Insulator
• Wrapping material
• Manufacture of Toys
• Manufacture of Radio and
Television cabinets
/ Dacron or terylene
• Ethylene glycol
• Terephthalic acid
• Used in blending with cotton and wool fibres
• Glass reinforcing materials in safety helmets
Polyvinyl chloride
• Vinyl chloride• Manufacture of rain coats,
hand bags, vinyl flooring, water pipes
Glyptal.• Ethylene glycol
• Phthalic acid
• Manufacture of Paints and Lacquers
Urea-formaldehyde Resin• Urea
• Formaldehyde
• For making Unbreakable cups and Laminated Sheets.
Bakelite• Phenol
• Formaldehyde
• Making combs
• Electrical switches
• Handles of Utensils
• Computer discs
Poly β-hydroxybutyrate
– co-β-hydroxy valerate
• 3-hydroxybutanoic acid
• 3 – hydroxypentanoic acid
• Used in the packaging of
orthopedic devices
Buna – N•1, 3 – butadiene
• Acrylonitrile
• Used in making oil seals, Tank lining
Neoprene• Chloroprene.• Used for manufacturing Conveyor belts
Gaskets and Hoses.
Melamine• Melamine
• Formaldehyde
• Manufacturing of unbreakable crockery
• Tetrafluoroethene• Used in making oil seals and
gaskets , non–stick surface coated utensils
• Acrylonitrile• Making commercial fibres as orlon or acrilan
Nylon 6• Caprolactum• Manufacture of tyre cords, fabrics, and ropes
Nylon 6,6• Hexamethylenediamine
• Adipic acid
• Used in making sheets, bristles
for brushes and in the textile industry

Types of Polymers: Previous Year Questions

Q1. PVC is obtained by the polymerization of? [SSC Section Officer (Audit) 2005]

Answer: Vinyl chloride

Q2. Which polymerization is used in the polyethene manufacturing industry? [SSC Section Officer (Commercial Audit) 2005]

Answer: Ethylene

Q3. A polymeric substance used to make parachutes is? [SSC Tax Assistant (Income Tax & Central Excise) 2005]

Answer: Terylene

Q4. The Polythene is a polymer of? [SSC Section Officer (Audit) 2006]

Answer: Ethylene

Q5. The polymer used in making plastic crockery is? [SSC CGL Prelim 2007]

Answer: Melamine

Q6. What is the name of the plastic polymer from which combs, toys, bowls, etc., can be made? [SSC Combined Matric Level (PRE) 2002]

Answer: Polystyrene

Q7. Natural rubber is the polymer of [SSC MTS 2011]
Answer: Isoprene

Q8. Bakelite is a copolymer of Phenol and? [SSC Stenographer Grade ‘C’ & ‘D’ 2011]

Answer: Formaldehyde

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1. The polymer obtained by the condensation of hexamethylene diamine and adipic acid is:

Answer: Nylon 66

Q2. Silicone is a polymer of?

Answer: Dialkyl dichloro silane

Q3. Natural rubber is a polymer of?

Answer: Isoprene

Q4. What is a Bakelite?

Answer: Polymer

Q5. Terylene is a condensation polymer of ethylene glycol and which acid?

Answer: Terephthalic acid

Q6. What nylon threads are made of?

Answer: Polyamide polymer

Primary Source of this Article -NCERT

To download all the NCERT books –  click Here

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