What is a Polymer?
A polymer (the name means "many parts") are long chain molecules that make up many repeating units called monomers. Polymers can be natural (organic) or synthetic. Cosmetics, shampoo and other hair care products, contact lenses, nature (crab shell, amber), food (protein, starch, gelatin, gum, gluten), plastic (bottles, toys, vinyl wraps, packaging), fabric, ball, shoes and It's even in your DNA.
There are three basic classes of polymers: thermoplastic, thermoset and elastomers. The distinction between these classes is well defined by their behavior under applied heat.
Thermoplastic polymers can be amorphous or crystalline. They behave relatively ductilely, but often have low strength.
Thermosetting polymers are always amorphous and are usually strong and tough but often brittle.
Elastomers are always amorphous and are used above Tg. They are capable of being elastically deformed in extremely large quantities without permanently damaging their shape.
How are polymers obtained?
Polymers are obtained by the chemical reaction of monomers. In nature, this process results in the formation of natural polymers, while synthetic polymers are made by humans. Polymers are naturally present in our environment from the very beginning (e.g. cellulose, starch and natural rubber). Although man-made polymeric materials have been studied since the middle of the nineteenth century, today the polymer industry has developed rapidly. So that; copper has a larger place than steel, aluminum and some other industries.
What are the uses of polymers?
Both natural and synthetic polymers are remarkably involved in the comfort and facilitation of human life and are widely used in information technology, medicine, nutrition, communications, transportation, irrigation, containers, clothing, record history, buildings, highways, etc. areas are directly responsible for life itself. Human society is difficult to imagine without synthetic and natural polymers.
Examination of polymer usage areas
1. Clothing: We may never have thought that the things we use in every aspect of our lives, the clothes we wear, and our shoes are all made of a polymer material. For example, while the soles of most hiking boots are made of polyurethane, PVC can be found in some. In addition, as we mentioned above, products such as polyacrylonitrile, most of which are made of wool cotton (Cellulose), natural polymeric materials or artificial means, are used in the clothes we wear in our daily life.
2. Packaging protection and some products: Most of the materials used in packaging are prepared from polymeric materials. Some of these materials are nylon, while others are made of polypropylene, polyester or polyethylene. For example, waterproof polyethylene or natural rubber is used in children's pads. In hair sprays; polyvinylpyrrolidone is used.
3. House building materials: PVC pipes are the most important elements of the water system in houses. Almost everything except the copper wires in the electrical installations in our homes is made of polymeric materials.
4. Transportation: In a modern automobile; excluding tires, rubber fiber flooring and paint, approximately 150 kg of polymer material is used. In addition, due to the lightness and durability of polymer materials, we observe that the use of polymers has increased by reducing the use of metal for fuel-saving purposes in airplanes
Atomic Force Microscopy: Polymer
The atomic force microscope is a sophisticated instrument which helps delineate the characteristics of polymers by revealing physical properties and mechanical behavior at nanoscale, as well as providing images.
The AFM allows the structure to be visualized via nanoscale topography of the surface, typically in tapping mode. This mode yields images with excellent spatial resolution, up to molecular and atomic structure. The small area in contact between the tip and the sample is responsible for the high resolution. This in turn is achieved by using ultrasharp tipped probes, in addition to the tapping mode which results in very gentle sideways and vertical forces between the tip and the sample. AFM imaging has recently become much faster with the emergence of newer AFMs, such as the Cypher AFMs from Asylum Research. This is due to the use of small cantilevers. Not only do smaller cantilevers have higher resonant frequencies, they are also able to provide improved resolution and control for very small forces in the subpiconewton range, which is extremely crucial when investigating polymers which are delicate and easily undergo deformation.
Below you can see an AFM image of the polymer produced by NanoMagnetics Instruments.