Learn the basics about what designer polymers are, some examples of them, and how chemical properties are used to perform a particular function.
Polymers have been around for a long time. Some of the commonly named examples are found in clothes, things like nylon, polyesters and acrylic. Others are plastics, like PVC, polyethene and polycarbonates. Some act as coatings on saucepans, like PTFE, more commonly known as Teflon.
The key thing is that different polymers have different properties.
Chemists have developed a branch of polymers called designer polymers. A designer polymer is one that has been designed to respond to a change in environment, or uses properties that are better than traditional polymers.
Nylon, a traditional polymer used to make some clothes has desirable properties. Nylon is tough, lightweight and waterproof. But it doesn't allow sweat to pass through, so when the person is wearing a garment they can become quite uncomfortable.
Designers have started to use GoreTex, a designer polymer. GoreTex uses layers of different polymers. They include an outer layer, typically made from nylon, or polyester. This makes the outer layer strong. Inner layers are made from polyurethane and this provides water-resistance. Other membranes are made of PTFE, which has many millions of holes. These holes are small enough to allow water vapour (sweat) to pass out, but does not allow larger water droplets from the outside to pass into the soft lining.
Designer polymers come up in many everyday situations. Contact lenses use a designer polymer: a special hydrogel. It is more flexible, softer and is breathable. Tooth Fillings are made with designer polymers. Designer polymers use a composite polymer resin, which is tough, contains no dangerous chemicals, like the mercury metal found in tradition silver fillings.
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