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A polymer is a macromolecule created by the joining of many single monomer units through the formation of covalent bonds. The monomers are similar or repetitive units and when joined create a molecule that is usually chained.[1]. The process by which polymers form is known as polymerisation[2].

Polymers can exist naturally, for example proteins are polymers. They are formed from the joining of many amino acid monomers in dipeptide bonds to form a polypeptide chain. Another example is polysaccharides, which are formed from the joining of carbohydrate molecules in glycosidic bonds. Starch and glycogen are two polysaccharides that are essential in storage in cells. Polymers can also be synthetically made and are extremely useful in industry. Examples of synthetic polymers are nylon, polyethene and Teflon. They are formed mainly from the polymerisation of alkenes, and are therefore made up of many carbon atoms[3]. Synthetic polymers have many uses and are very valuable to us, they have even been used in biomedical applications in implantable devices and controlled drug delivery[4].


  1. Alberts, B. Johnson, A. Lewis, J. Raff, M. Roberts, K. Walter, P. (2007) Molecular Biology of the cell, 5th edition, glossary page G:30, New York, Garland Science
  2. Lister, T. Renshaw, J (2009) AQA Chemistry, chapter 9, Nelson Thornes
  3. Lister, T. Renshaw, J (2009) AQA Chemistry, chapter 9, Nelson Thornes
  4. Storz R.(2010)Polymers in medicine, available at http://www.materialsviews.com/details/news/869903/Polymers_in_Biomedicine__New_Special_Issue_in_Macromolecular_Bioscience.html(last accessed 2/12/11)
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