The key difference between polymers and metals is that the polymers are lightweight materials compared to metals.
If we take a ball made of a polymer material such as plastic and a ball made of a metal with the same size, we can observe that the metal ball is heavier than the plastic ball. Therefore, this property of the polymer is highly advantageous because we can replace metal with plastic material if it has desirable properties that are nearly similar to the metal. Also, there are more differences between polymers and metals, which we will be discussing in the following text.
What are Polymers?
A polymer is a macromolecular material having a large number of repeating units linked to each other via covalent chemical bonds. These repeating units represent the monomers that were used to make the polymer. Hence, the monomers undergo a process called polymerization to form a polymer. There are mainly two types of polymers, and they are natural and synthetic polymers. Natural polymers primarily include biopolymers such as protein and nucleic acids whereas synthetic polymers include human-made polymer materials such as plastic, nylon, etc.
Since there are many known polymer materials, we classify them into several groups for the ease of study. These classifications can be in different ways; depending on the structure, properties, morphology, etc. For instance, we can classify these materials according to the structure as linear, branched, and network polymers. Furthermore, we can classify them according to their properties as thermoplastic, thermosets, and elastomers. According to the morphology, we can classify them as amorphous, semi-crystalline, and crystalline polymers.
Moreover, there are many desirable properties in polymers due to the large molecular mass. These properties include toughness, viscoelasticity, tendency to convert into glass states, high strength to weight ratio, etc. Further, these materials are far less expensive and cost-effective in comparison to some other materials such as metals.
What are Metals?
Metals are materials that have a lustrous appearance, high thermal and electrical conductivity. Typically they are malleable and ductile. Also, these metals include pure elements or alloys (an alloy is a combination of two or more metals and some other nonmetals). Furthermore, there are several types of metals in the periodic table of the element; alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals, etc.
When considering the properties, these materials have highly favourable properties for constructions as well as in other applications such as making jewellery, instruments, vehicles, etc. Some of these important properties include lustrous appearance, high density, malleability, ductility, high strength, high thermal and electrical conductivity, etc.
What is the Difference Between Polymers and Metals?
A polymer is a macromolecular material having a large number of repeating units linked to each other via covalent chemical bonds while metals are either pure elements or alloys. Therefore, they have different chemical and physical properties. The key difference between polymers and metals is that the polymers are lightweight than the metals. However, metals have a lustrous appearance, and high thermal and electrical conductivity. Moreover, the strength to weight ratio of polymer materials is higher than that of metals. Also, another important difference between polymers and metals is that the metals are highly malleable and ductile whereas most of the polymers are not.
Furthermore, polymers contain repeating units linked by covalent chemical bonds that represent the monomers used in the making of the polymer. But, the pure metals have metal cations and electrons attached to each other via metallic bonds and alloys that contain two or more metals and nonmetals as well. Hence, this is a significant difference between polymers and metals.
Summary – Polymers vs Metals
Polymers and metals are very important materials in different industries as well as in our daily needs. The key difference between polymers and metals is that the polymers are lightweight materials in comparison to metals.
1. Johnson, Todd. “What Is a Polymer?” ThoughtCo, Oct. 28, 2018. Available here
2. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, and Helmenstine. “A List of All the Elements That Are Metals.” Thoughtco., Dotdash. Available here
1.”Biodegradable Polymers Flow Chart 3″By 5402013SD – Own work, (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2.”Sauce boat”By Wikimedia Commons user TheBernFiles. – Own work, (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia