Web Content Developed by Dr Elizabeth Sterner

Want to add polymers to your class, but you’re not sure where to start?  Perhaps you want to update an existing activity, or add something completely new.  You’re in the right place!  The resources on this page are meant to introduce you to new polymer content, provide downloadable PowerPoint modules you drop straight into your classes, and link you to external sites for even more information.

Why should I add polymer content to my classes?

1) Polymers are everywhere and can be made from many familiar reactions.  They are effective real-world examples to use in problems and projects. 

2) Because of their repeating structure, polymers are “molecular amplifiers”.  Structure differences that would be very subtle in small molecules can manifest as drastic differences in polymer properties like crystallinity, glass transition temperature, and strength.

3) The American Chemical Society requires instruction in polymer chemistry and related areas as part of its program certification criteria. 

Try the MACRO Curriculum Modules

Each module is a set of slides designed to be used as-is or tailored to your specific class.  The modules are accompanied by an instructor document that provides necessary background and context to the slides so that you are well-prepared to use them for instruction.  We are working on creating modules for all levels of undergraduate chemistry courses.  All sets may be used in whole or in part.  You are encouraged to take what is useful for your course.

General Topics

Polymers: Essential Background and Definitions.  This set of 18 slides is broken into mini-modules of about three slides each that cover how polymers differ from small molecules, the unique properties of polymers like molecular weight dispersity and the glass transition temperature, and examples of polymers in everyday life.  This module is an accessible introduction to polymers that can be used even in general chemistry courses.

Organic Chemistry

Polymers: Synthesis by Acyl Substitution Reactions.  This 5-slide set introduces students to how familiar acyl substitution reactions that create esters and amides can be used to make polymers like PET and Nylon-6,6. 

Polymers: Synthesis by Alkene Chemistry.  This set of 11 slides builds off of discussions of cationic and anionic reactions to introduce chain-growth mechanisms of polymer synthesis.  These mechanisms use the initiation-propagation-termination pattern to produce polymers.  A discussion of the different classes of polymer mechanisms is included, as well as a discussion of polymerization inhibition and an introduction to controlled polymerization. 

Polymers: Stereochemistry.  We are familiar with small molecule stereoisomers displaying different properties, such as affecting the rotation of polarized light.  In polymers, the effects of stereochemistry are much more dramatic.  In 7 slides, students apply the concept of R/S stereocenters and extends it to considering how neighboring stereocenters along a polymer backbone can interact to affect the properties of the polymer.  Students are introduced to the required vocabulary, synthetic concerns for controlling stereochemistry, and examples of polymer stereochemistry in nature.

Everyday Polymers Applications

Polymer Materials We Take For Granted: A series of videos covering the chemistry, physics, engineering and properties of everyday polymer materials. Perfect for providing context or reference to the unique and importance features of polymers.

Coming Soon: Polymer Characterization

Want to Contribute new Content to MACRO for others to use in their teaching activities?

Please download MACRO’s word document template to provide notes on the activity, and MACRO’s powerpoint template. Full these with your content and then Upload through our Instructional Materials Submission Portal. Note you will need a valid email address and an ACS ID.

What other resources are available?

Macrogaleria– An excellent resource on Polymer Science and Engineering. This website is managed by Lon Mathias.

We need volunteers to provide ideas, proofread content, and generate content.  If you want to get involved:

Join MACRO by visiting the MACRO Interest/Volunteer Form.