Polymer chemistry

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Polymer chemistry is a multidisciplinary science that deals with the chemical synthesis and chemical properties of polymers which were considered by Hermann Staudinger as macromolecules.  According to IUPAC recommendations, macromolecules refer to the individual molecular chains and are the domain of chemistry.  Polymers describe the bulk properties of polymer materials and belong to the field of polymer physics as a subfield of physics.


  • The evolvement of our present-day understanding of polymeric structures occurred in the early 1920s. Thus, Staudinger et al. firmly established the existence of macromolecules. Others, by X-ray analyses and careful use of molecular weight determinations, confirmed his findings. In 1929, a series of outstanding investigations were carried out by Carothers on other polymeric materials. This resulted in much of today’s knowledge and understanding.
    • A. Ravve, Principles of Polymer Chemistry (3rd ed., 2012), Ch. 1 : Introduction and Nomenclature, pp. 1–2.


  • Dear Colleague, Leave the concept of large molecules well alone; organic molecules with a molecular weight above 5000 do not exist. Purify your products, such as rubber, then they will crystallize and prove to be lower molecular substances. Organic molecules with more than 40 atoms do not exist. Molecules cannot be larger than the crystallographic unit cell, so there can be no such thing as a macromolecule.
    • An historic criticism against Hermann Staudinger (the father of modern polymer chemistry).[1][2][3] It was written to him by Heinrich Wieland, 1927 Nobel laureate, after Staudinger giving a major lecture supporting his evidence in favor of the macromolecular concept.[4][5]
  • My colleagues were very skeptical about this change, and those who knew my publications in the field of low molecular chemistry asked me why I was neglecting this interesting field and instead was working on a very unpleasant field and poorly defined compounds, like rubber and synthetic polymers. At that time the chemistry of these compounds often was designated, in view of their properties, as Schmierenchemie ('grease chemistry').
    • Hermann Staudinger in his autobiography.[5]
  • I am inclined to think that the development of polymerization is, perhaps, the biggest thing chemistry has done, where it has had the biggest effect in everyday life. The world would be a totally different place without artificial fibres, plastics, elastomers, etc. Even in the field of electronics, what would you do without insulation? And there you come back to polymers again.
    • Lord Todd, president of the Royal Society of London, in reply to the question "What do you think has been chemistry's biggest contribution to science, to society?", quoted in Chem. Eng. News 58(40), 29 (1980).[2]


  1. Robert Olby, "The Macromolecular Concept and the Origins of Molecular Biology", J. Chem. Educ. 46, 168-174 (1970)
  2. a b F. W. Billmeyer, "Textbook of Polymer Science", 2nd editon, J. Wiley ( 1971)
  3. Jean-Marie André; Joseph Delhalle; Jean Luc Brédas (1991). "Introduction". Quantum Chemistry Aided Design of Organic Polymers: An Introduction to the Quantum Chemistry of Polymers and Its Applications. World Scientific. p. 1. ISBN 978-981-02-0004-6. Retrieved on 24 October 2012. 
  4. Jörg Klug (July 2002). Commentary on Gáspár Jékely's article in EMBO reports, July 2002. "ncbi.nlm.nih.gov". European Molecular Biology Organization. Retrieved on 24 October 2012.
  5. a b Foundations of Polymer Science: Hermann Staudinger and Macromolecules. American Chemical Society International Historic Chemical Landmarks (1999). Retrieved on 16 November 2012.
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