An Introduction to Polymerization

This computer program, created for the Polymers Module, is a lesson on the two general types of polymer synthesis, or polymerization: (1) condensation, or step-growth, polymerization and (2) addition, or chain-growth, polymerization. In addition to a description of the chemistry of these two processes, there are computer simulations for each polymerization. They simulate how monomers randomly link and form chains of various lengths, based on the kinds of monomers used, the specific mechanism, and certain experimental conditions. The program emphasizes what happens in real-life polymer synthesis: that there is a distribution of polymer chain lengths and therefore a distribution of molecular weights. The average weight is used to describe a polymer's molecular weight.

Part of this program is a result of the NSTA Teachers Honors Workshop, sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association, funded by the National Science Foundation, and supported by the Atlantic Richfield Company. (August 1984)

There is a two-page worksheet to accompany this program. If you would like to print copies of it, click here to view and print it. Please, print just one copy and then photocopy the necessary number of copies.

This program is designed to introduce you, the chemistry student, to ideas about what polymers are and how they are formed. You should already understand that carbon-carbon single bonds are formed when two carbon atoms share two electrons. You should also know that a double bond is formed when four electrons (two pairs) are shared between two atoms. If these concepts are unfamiliar to you, read in your textbook about carbon chemistry (organic chemistry) first.

A Note About the Glossary:
A large problem with learning new information is the number of unfamiliar terms one comes across. To help, a glossary of terms has been built into this program. This glossary can be viewed at any time by clicking the glossary button on the side menu bar.


To start your introduction to polymerization, select an item from the side menu bar.