Examples of Natural Polymers and Their Monomers


Examples of Natural and Synthetic Polymers
Examples of natural polymers include DNA, natural rubber, cellulose, and wool. Examples of synthetic polymers include nylon, polyester, Teflon, and epoxy.

A polymer is a large molecule made up of repeating subunits called monomers that are linked to one another by chemical bonds. Natural polymers are common in everyday life. Many are produced by living organisms. There are also synthetic polymers, which are made in a lab through chemical reactions, usually involving petrochemicals. Here is a list of natural polymers, their sources, and their monomers.

Natural Polymers

There are natural organic polymers and natural inorganic polymers. But, usually when people discuss natural polymers, they’re only referring to the organic molecules.

All four of the main classes of biological molecules (nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids) include polymers. Most of the natural polymers encountered in everyday life are proteins, such as keratin in wool and hair; cellulose from plants; and collagen in skin.

Even elements can form natural polymers. For example, graphene is a polymer made of carbon subunits. Under certain conditions, the element sulfur forms a natural plastic. Obsidian (natural glass), diamond, quartz, and other minerals are natural inorganic polymers.

Examples of Natural Polymers and Their Monomers

PolymerMonomer(s)Sources
Natural rubber (latex)isoprenerubber tree, dandelion, chicle
DNA and RNAnucleotidesliving organisms
CelluloseD-glucoseplants, algae
Hair, wool, nails, hooves, clawsα-keratinall vertebrates
ChitinN-acetylglucosaminearthropod exoskeletons, fish scales
Feathers, reptile scales and shellsβ-keratinbirds and reptiles
Starchglucoseplants
Ligninphenolic compoundsplants
Pectinmostly D-galacturonic acidplants
Silkfibroin made mostly from alanine and glycineinsects, arachnids

Synthetic Polymers

The earliest synthetic polymers were actually semi-synthetic because they were modifications of natural polymers. For example, nitrocellulose is a synthetic polymer made from cellulose. Today, many synthetic polymers found in daily life are made from petroleum.

Examples of synthetic polymers include:

  • Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic
  • Neoprene
  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Polyethylene
  • Polypropylene
  • Polystyrene
  • Rayon
  • Teflon
  • Epoxy resin
  • Silicone
  • Silly putty
  • Slime

References

  • Cowie, J.M.G.; Arrighi ,Valeria (2007). Polymers: Chemistry and Physics of Modern Materials (3rd ed.). Boca Raton, LA: CRC Press. 
  • Sperling, Leslie H. (2006). Introduction to Physical Polymer Science (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.  
  • Young, Robert J.; Lovell, Peter A. (2011). Introduction to Polymers (3rd ed.). Boca Raton, LA: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

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