Common Misconceptions
3 min read

Polymers

- What you are getting from a statement might not be necessarily true. Let's burst some of the common misconceptions.
1
Are all macromolecules are polymers?
Macro molecules are molecules which consist of more than 10K atoms. We all may be under the impression that all macromolecules are polymers. But no.
Polymers are large molecules with repeating units called monomers. So, polymers are macromolecules.
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Now there are other large molecules such as Chlorophyll A and Chlorophyll B. But these do not have any repeating units. So, they are not polymers, but are still classified as macromolecules.
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Conclusion:- All polymers are macromolecules but all macromolecules are not polymers.
2
If a polymer is biodegradable, I can throw it into the environment and it will disappear, almost like magic. No.
Firstly, throwing waste into the environment is never a good idea.
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Secondly, biodegradability is a very broad term and does not automatically mean that a product will degrade in any environment. Degradation is dependent on factors such as temperature, time and the presence of bacteria and fungi in the specific environment.
In most cases, biodegradability means that these polymers will only degrade under specific conditions and not in the open environment. And on top of that, the biodegradability of the final product is not just determined by the properties of its polymer, but also by additives that are added for final consumer products.
3
Are Bio-based polymers and Bio polymers the same thing?
"Biopolymer" refers to polymers that occur in nature or are produced by biological action.
Cellulose, starch, proteins are examples of biopolymers.
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Bio-based polymers are synthetic polymers - like polylactic acid (PLA). These materials usually biodegrade and are made from biological raw materials, but are prepared by chemical methods.
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PLA is made up of small molecules found in nature, but the polymerization process is a human invention.
Nitrocellulose, which was historically used in photographic film, is a chemically modified version of a natural material, but does not occur naturally.
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It would be accurate to refer to PLA and nitrocellulose as "bio-based" or "bio-derived" polymers.