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How Monomers Become Polymers, And Why Their Combined Forms Are Important

There are many different solids, gases, and liquids produced in industrial plants. Many of these are made from man-made polymers, which used to be monomers. Monomers are either found in nature as-is, or they are created in a lab. The monomers products are combined to create thousands of different polymers, and the polymers are used to create products. Here is how monomers become polymers, and why their combined forms are so important to the products they create. 

A Monomer is a Single Chemical Molecule

A single chemical molecule, regardless of its form, is referred to as a monomer. Ethane is a very common and naturally found monomer made up of a single molecule. The gas itself contains hundreds to thousands of singular molecules, depending on the volume amount of the gas. All of these single molecules are free-floating monomers that can be compounded and combined with other molecules to create macro-molecules, or polymers.

When Polymers Combine, They Become Something Else

In the case of ethane, you can link its molecules with carbon atoms (thereby combining it with carbon, but retaining the individually identifiable molecules of ethane). It then becomes butane, a liquid fuel that is no longer in a gaseous state. The butane is considered a polymer because it has been chained/combined with another monomer to get more than one monomer, a.k.a., a polymer. When the chain link of butane's carbon molecules is increased, it becomes a semi-solid waxy substance known as parrafin. If you continue to increase the carbon molecules, eventually you will get a solid, plastic-like material. This is, without a doubt, a true polymer in every sense of the word. This process can be repeated with any monomer gas, liquid, or solid, slowly transforming it into something else with the addition of either carbon or hydrogen molecules.

Why the Combined Forms of Monomers to Polymers Are Important

If humans had never figured out the existence of monomers and molecules, and figured out that these monomers could be combined to create something else, thousands of products you use every day would not exist. So many things are made from resins and plastics, rubber products and liquid cleaning agents. All of these things started out as monomers in a lab and became the products you use (and often take for granted!). Continued research into monomers products and their ultimate transformation into polymers and polymer products is at the heart of every industrial company.