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21.3: Characteristics and Nomenclature of Copolymers

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JoVE Core
Organic Chemistry

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Characteristics and Nomenclature of Copolymers
 
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21.3: Characteristics and Nomenclature of Copolymers

Copolymers are the products obtained from the polymerization of multiple monomer species. So, in a polymer chain itself, there can be multiple repeating units that come from different monomers. The process of synthesizing a polymer from different monomer species is called copolymerization. When two monomers are involved, the polymer is known as a bipolymer. Polymers with three and four monomers are termed terpolymers and quaterpolymers, respectively. Figure 1 depicts the copolymerization of styrene and acrylonitrile to yield the bipolymer poly(styrene-co-acrylonitrile) (styrene–acrylonitrile resin, or SAN). Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a popular example of the terpolymer, widely used for 3D printing.

Figure1

Figure 1: Copolymerization of styrene and acrylonitrile

In copolymers, since more than one type of repeating unit exists, the chemical formula of a copolymer is represented by placing separate parentheses and the corresponding degree of polymerization for each unique repeating unit.

Depending on the distribution of each comonomer in the polymer chain, the copolymer can be classified as an alternating, random, block, or graft copolymer.

If the monomer at the end of the growing polymer chain prefers to react with the alternate monomer in the mixture and vice versa, systematic incorporation of different monomers yields alternating copolymers.

Figure2

Figure 2: Alternating copolymer from the polymerization of two monomers

When one of these monomers at the end of the growing polymer chain has no preference towards any comonomer, random incorporation of the monomer occurs.

Figure3

Figure 3: Random copolymer from the polymerization of two monomers

Blocks of homopolymers can be made from a mixture of monomers with suitable reaction conditions for the homopolymerization of each monomer. These homopolymer blocks can combine at different locations. If the homopolymers join at the edges, blocks of different homopolymers alternate in the polymer chain.

Figure4

Figure 4: Block copolymer from the polymerization of two monomers

Another possibility is the grafting of homopolymer chains from one monomer onto the internal atoms in a homopolymer chain of the other monomer.

Figure5

Figure 5: Graft copolymer from the polymerization of two monomers


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Keywords: Copolymers Bipolymers Terpolymers Quaterpolymers Copolymerization Styrene Acrylonitrile Poly(styrene-co-acrylonitrile) ABS Alternating Copolymer Random Copolymer Block Copolymer Graft Copolymer Homopolymer Monomer Distribution

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