Key Difference – Polymer vs Copolymer
“Polymers” are an important group of molecules includes hundreds of varieties of molecules. These are divided according to their structure, physical properties or uses. A copolymer is such a group of polymers that is divided according to its difference in structure from other polymers. The key difference between polymer and copolymer is that a polymer is any giant molecule made out of same or different monomers whereas, a copolymer is a polymer made out of different monomers.
What is a Polymer?
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating units called monomers, linked via covalent bonds. The process which forms a polymer is called polymerization. Polymerization results in polymer chains formed from monomers. These polymer chains can be linked to each other via Van Der Waal forces. This makes a 3D structure of a polymer. Thus, they are called macromolecules.
According to the type of monomers present, polymers are of two types: Homopolymers and Copolymers
Depending on the physical properties of polymers, there are 3 major classes:
Thermoplastics – one-dimensional chains that can be melted and reformed
Elastomers – polymers having elastic properties
Thermosets – three-dimensional structures which do not melt once they are formed and degrade upon heating
According to the polymerization process, polymers are divided as addition polymers and condensation polymers.
Polymers can be either amorphous or semi-crystalline. Amorphous polymers have no ordered structure whereas crystalline polymers have well-organized structures. Amorphous polymers produce transparent polymer structures whereas semi-crystalline polymers are opaque.
What is a Copolymer?
A copolymer is a type of polymer which has a different arrangement of monomers than other polymers. According to the arrangement of the monomers in the polymer chain, polymers are basically categorized into two types as homopolymers and copolymers. A homopolymer is an arrangement where only one monomer is involved in the formation of the polymer. A copolymer is an arrangement where more than one monomers are involved in the formation of the polymer.
When polymerization occurs in a mixture of monomers, copolymers are formed. But copolymer may have quite different properties than those of the homopolymers made from monomers separately. Many copolymers have considerable commercial importance. For example, Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, nitrile rubber, etc.
Copolymers can be again divided into several groups as it is made out of more than one monomer species.
Alternating copolymers – these have regular alternating monomers
Block copolymers – composed of two or more homopolymer subunits attached to each other
Random copolymers – the monomers are arranged in a random manner
Branched copolymers – the monomers are arranged in branches
What is the difference between Polymer and Copolymer?
Polymer vs Copolymer
|A polymer is a giant molecule built out of repeating units called monomers.||A copolymer is a type of polymer which has a different arrangement of monomers than other polymers.|
|Polymers can have only one monomer species.||Copolymers essentially have more than one monomer species.|
|Polymers can be formed through either addition polymerization or condensation polymerization.||Copolymers are formed only from condensation polymerization.|
|Polymers can have either simple or complex structure.||Copolymers usually have a complex structure.|
Summary – Polymer vs Copolymer
Polymers normally have a complex structure because it is a collection of a number of monomers. These monomers can be made from the same species or different species. These monomers may be arranged in different ways to build the polymer structure. According to the type of monomers, there are two major types called Homopolymers and Copolymers. The main difference between polymer and copolymer is that polymer is any giant molecule made out of same or different monomers whereas a copolymer is a polymer made out of different monomers.
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1. “Polymer – definition and classification of polymers.” AdhesiveandGlue.com. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 05 June 2017.
2. Chang, Raymond. Chemistry. Chang. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.
1. “Polymer Chain – Elastomer” By Koh Wei Teck – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Copolymers” By Mankash (talk); original image by en:User:V8rik – Uppladdarens egna verk (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia