The key difference between polymer and biopolymer is that most of the polymers are non-degradable whereas biopolymers are degradable.
Polymers are giant molecules having many repeating units. These repeating units represent the monomers that build up the polymer material. On the other hand, biopolymers are the polymer materials that occur in biological systems.
What is Polymer?
Polymers are large molecules that have the same structural unit repeating over and over. These repeating units represent monomers. These monomers bind with each other via covalent bonds to form a polymer. They have a high molecular weight and consist over 10,000 atoms. In the synthesis process (polymerization), longer polymer chains form.
Furthermore, there are two main types of polymers depending on their nature. They are the natural and synthetic polymers. Natural polymers are the materials that we can find in nature while synthetic polymers are the man-made materials. The polymer material that forms inside biological systems is named as biopolymers.
Also, according to the process of synthesis, there are two forms of polymers. They are the addition and condensation polymers. If the monomers have double bonds between carbon atoms their polymerization forms addition polymers. In some of the polymerization reactions, when two monomers join with each other, a small molecule like water releases. Such polymers are condensation polymers. Furthermore, there are many ways that we can classify polymer materials; according to the properties, structure, sources, etc.
What is Biopolymer?
Biopolymers are polymer materials that form in living organisms. There are three main biopolymers in living systems; polysaccharides, proteins and polynucleotides (nucleic acids). The structural unit of polysaccharides is monosaccharides (sugars). When two monosaccharides join together to form a glycosidic bond, it releases a water molecule. Therefore, polysaccharides are condensation polymers. Polysaccharides play structural and functional roles in organisms. Glycogen is a storage polysaccharide, whereas cellulose is a component in the cell walls of plant cells. Glucose is the monomer for both glycogen and cellulose polymers.
Proteins are consisting of polypeptides, which are biopolymers of amino acid monomers. Amino acids form peptide bonds with each other during the polymerization process. Therefore, the proteins have peptide bonds between its repeating units. Polynucleotides is another important type of biopolymer. DNA and RNA are the two vital polynucleotides that we can find in organisms. The synthesis process of biopolymers is a dehydration process, where a water molecule releases with the formation of a covalent bond.
Biopolymers are very complex, and there is a wide variety of them. Likewise, they can be linear or branched, and the folding patterns are unique to each biopolymer. Unlike synthetic polymers, biopolymers are easily degradable. Hence we can use them to replace some of the synthetic polymers.
These materials undergo hydrolysis by enzymes, or else they can undergo denaturation by heating, adding chemicals, or by mechanical forces. Moreover, these polymers have a defined and very specific structure, because biological systems are highly selective. Apart from that, these materials synthesize from templates inside biological systems. For example, a new DNA forms from an existing DNA as a template.
What is the Difference Between Polymer and Biopolymer?
Polymers are large molecules that have the same structural unit repeating over and over while biopolymers are polymer materials that form in living organisms. The key difference between polymer and biopolymer is that most of the polymers are non-degradable whereas biopolymers are degradable. Another important difference between polymer and biopolymer is that polymers can have either simple or complex structures while biopolymers mostly have complex structures.
The below infographic on difference between polymer and biopolymer shows more details on the differences.
Summary – Polymer vs Biopolymer
Biopolymers are a type of polymers that occur inside biological systems. The key difference between polymer and biopolymer is that most of the polymers are non-degradable whereas biopolymers are degradable.