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This free course, Introduction to polymers, examines the use of polymers and demonstrates how their properties are controlled by their molecular structure. You will learn how this structure determines which polymer to use for a particular product. You will also explore the manufacturing techniques used and the how the use of polymerisation can be used to control the structure of polymers.
After studying this unit you should be able to:
- isolate the key design features of a product which relate directly to the material(s) used in its construction;
- indicate how the properties of polymeric materials can be exploited by a product designer;
- describe the role of rubber-toughening in improving the mechanical properties of polymers;
- identify the repeat units of particular polymers and specify the isomeric structures which can exist for those repeat units;
- estimate the number- and weight-average molecular masses of polymer samples given the degree of polymerization and mass fraction of chains present;
- calculate the molecular mass distribution for chain and step growth polymerizations from the concentrations of reactants and degree of conversion of monomer;
- assess the effect of reactivity ratio on copolymer structures;
- relate the crystal melting point Tm
and the glass transition temperature Tg to molecular parameters, particularly chain length and composition;
- interpret the mechanical properties of polymers using a viscoelastic master curve or dynamic mechanical information;
- make a preliminary selection of an appropriate polymer for a particular product specification.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Polymer materials
- 2 Molecular engineering
- 2.1 Understanding the polymer state
- 2.2 Chain repeat units
- 2.3 Chain configuration
- 2.4 Chain conformations
- 2.5 Structure-property relationships
- 2.6 Molecular mass distribution
- 2.7 Commercial polymers
- 3 Manufacture of monomers
- 4 Polymerization
- 4.1 Understanding the polymerization process
- 4.2 Chain and step growth
- 4.3 Chain growth polymerization
- 4.4 Step growth polymerization
- 4.5 Copolymerization
- 4.6 Polymer grades
- 5 Physical properties of polymers
- 5.1 The behaviour of polymers
- 5.2 Viscoelasticity of polymers
- 5.3 Viscoelasticity and master curves
- 5.4 Dynamic mechanical properties
- 5.5 Orientation in polymers
- 5.6 Crystallisation of polymers
- 6 Design in polymers
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Introduction to polymers
Polymers are materials composed of long molecular chains that are well-accepted for a wide variety of applications. This unit explores these materials in terms of their chemical composition, associated properties and processes of manufacture from petrochemicals. The unit also shows a range of products in which polymers are used and explains why they are chosen in preference to many conventional materials.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 3 study in
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Chemistry courses or view the range of currently available OU Chemistry courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 20th July 2011
Last updated on: Tuesday, 31st July 2012
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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