Molecular Arrangement of Polymers

Think of how spaghetti noodles look on a plate. These are similar to how linear polymers can be arranged if they lack specific order, or are amorphous. Controlling the polymerization process and quenching molten polymers can result in amorphous organization. An amorphous arrangement of molecules has no long-range order or form in which the polymer chains arrange themselves. Amorphous polymers are generally transparent. This is an important characteristic for many applications such as food wrap, plastic windows, headlight lenses and contact lenses.

Obviously not all polymers are transparent. The polymer chains in objects that are translucent and opaque may be in a crystalline arrangement. By definition, a crystalline arrangement has atoms, ions, or in this case, molecules arranged in distinct patterns. You generally think of crystalline structures in table salt and gemstones, but they can occur in plastics. Just as quenching can produce amorphous arrangements, processing can control the degree of crystallinity for those polymers that are able to crystallize.  Some polymers are designed to never be able to crystallize.  Others are designed to be able to be crystallized.  The higher the degree of crystallinity, generally, the less light can pass through the polymer. Therefore, the degree of translucence or opaqueness of the polymer can be directly affected by its crystallinity.  Crystallinity creates benefits in strength, stiffness, chemical resistance, and stability.

Scientists and engineers are always producing more useful materials by manipulating the molecular structure that affects the final polymer produced. Manufacturers and processors introduce various fillers, reinforcements and additives into the base polymers, expanding product possibilities.

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