A polymer is a large molecule (macromolecule) composed of repeating structural units or chains typically connected by
covalent chemical bonds. While polymer in popular usage suggests plastic, the term actually refers to a large class of
natural and synthetic materials with a variety of properties and purposes.
Well-known examples of polymers include plastics and proteins. A simple example is polypropylene, whose repeating
unit structure is shown at the right. However, polymers are not just limited to having predominantly carbon backbones,
elements such as silicon form familiar materials such as silicones, examples being silly putty and waterproof plumbing
sealant. The backbone of DNA is in fact based on a phosphodiester bond.
Natural polymer materials such as shellac and amber have been in use for centuries. Biopolymers such as proteins and
nucleic acids play crucial roles in biological processes. A variety of other natural polymers exist, such as cellulose, which
is the main constituent of wood and paper.
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