The synthetic blocks or repeating units in a polymer are called monomers. Polymerization or polymer synthesis is a chemical reaction in which monomers are covalently bonded together to form a polymer structure. The nature of the monomer is crucial to the properties of the final polymer. For example, the monomer of polyethylene is ethylene, which has no rigid large groups in its molecular structure. The monomer of polystyrene is styrene containing benzene rings. Ultimately, polyethylene is weaker than polystyrene in mechanical properties, heat resistance, etc. Depending on the polymerization reaction, monomers can be divided into two categories: addition polymerization monomers and condensation polymerization monomers. Addition polymerization monomers are monomer molecules with double or triple bonds or ring structures, which can be used to produce polymers by addition polymerization. For example, the C=C bond of ethylene can be opened for polymerization to produce polyethylene. If two or more monomer molecules containing functional groups can react with each other to form water or other separable small molecules, the monomers that can undergo polycondensation reaction to form polymers are called polycondensation monomers. For example, the monomers of PET are bisphenol A and phosgene.
The number of functional groups in a monomer that can participate in a reaction is the functionality. Monomers with a functional degree of 1 can only form dimers, monomers with a functional degree of 2 can form linear polymers, and molecules with a functional degree greater than 2 can form bulk polymers. Typically, bulk polymers have a higher strength than linear polymers. The nature of the monomer has an important influence on the properties of the final polymer, so we can choose the right monomer or modify it to obtain the polymer we want.
Usually, the variable physicochemical properties of the monomers also confer variable properties to the synthetic polymers. For example, polyethylene synthesized from ethylene and polypropylene synthesized from propylene, both of which have significant differences in mechanical properties, weather resistance, and low temperature resistance. When monomers contain a large number of structures such as benzene rings, the heat resistance of the final synthesized polymers, such as polyimides, will be greatly improved. Therefore, we can choose monomers with different properties to synthesize out polymers to better meet the usage requirements.
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