Chemistry of Plastics

A Short Chemistry Lesson



The idea of plastic came from naturally accruing substances known as polymer. Polymers can be found existing in nature in the form of tar, shellac, tortoise shells, horns, tree saps such as amber and latex.

Though what is a polymer? A substance made of many repeating chemical units or molecules. A simpler way to think of polymers is as a paper clip chain. The paper clips are all made out of the same things, as they are linked together it illustrates the concept of polymers chemical unit repeating themselves. Depending on the substances used depends on the polymer created. Most polymers contain carbon and hydrogen, though they can also have oxygen, chlorine, fluorine, nitrogen, silicon, phosphorous and sulfur. PVC contains chlorine, Nylon contains nitrogen, Teflon contains fluorine, and polyester and polycarbonates contain oxygen

Polymers each have distinct traits but most polymers tend to have the same characteristic. Polymers tend to be resistant to chemicals, can be thermal and electrical insulators, for the most part light weight with varying degrees of strength, as well they are able to be made into a heavy walled jar or a thin fiber.

Molecular Structure of Common Plastics

PET - polyethylene terephthalate


HDPE - high density polyethylene

V - polyvinyl chloride


LDPE - low density polyethylene

PP - polypropylene


PS - polystyrene






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