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Organic macromolecules

As its name suggests, a macromolecule is a large molecule that forms when lots of smaller molecules are joined together. In this chapter, we will be taking a closer look at the structure and properties of different macromolecules, and at how they form.


Some macromolecules are made up of lots of repeating structural units called monomers . To put it more simply, a monomer is like a building block. When lots of similar monomers are joined together by covalent bonds, they form a polymer . In an organic polymer , the monomers are joined by the carbon atoms of the polymer 'backbone'. A polymer can also be inorganic , in which case there may be atoms such as silicon in the place of carbon atoms. The key feature that makes a polymer different from other macromolecules, is the repetition of identical or similar monomers in the polymer chain. The examples shown below will help to make these concepts clearer.


Polymer is a term used to describe large molecules consisting of repeating structural units, or monomers, connected by covalent chemical bonds.

  1. Polyethene Chapter [link] looked at the structure of a group of hydrocarbons called the alkenes . One example is the molecule ethene . The structural formula of ethene is is shown in [link] . When lots of ethene molecules bond together, a polymer called polyethene is formed. Ethene is the monomer which, when joined to other ethene molecules, forms the polymer polyethene . Polyethene is a cheap plastic that is used to make plastic bags and bottles.
    (a) Ethene monomer and (b) polyethene polymer
    A polymer may be a chain of thousands of monomers, and so it is impossible to draw the entire polymer. Rather, the structure of a polymer can be condensed and represented as shown in [link] . The monomer is enclosed in brackets and the 'n' represents the number of ethene molecules in the polymer, where 'n' is any whole number. What this shows is that the ethene monomer is repeated an indefinite number of times in a molecule of polyethene.
    A simplified representation of a polyethene molecule
  2. Polypropene Another example of a polymer is polypropene (fig [link] ). Polypropene is also a plastic, but is stronger than polyethene and is used to make crates, fibres and ropes. In this polymer, the monomer is the alkene called propene .
    (a) Propene monomer and (b) polypropene polymer

How do polymers form?

Polymers are formed through a process called polymerisation , where monomer molecules react together to form a polymer chain. Two types of polymerisation reactions are addition polymerisation and condensation polymerisation .


In chemistry, polymerisation is a process of bonding monomers, or single units together through a variety of reaction mechanisms to form longer chains called polymers.

Addition polymerisation

In this type of reaction, monomer molecules are added to a growing polymer chain one at a time. No small molecules are eliminated in the process. An example of this type of reaction is the formation of polyethene from ethene (fig [link] ). When molecules of ethene are joined to each other, the only thing that changes is that the double bond between the carbon atoms in each ethene monomer is replaced by a single bond so that a new carbon-carbon bond can be formed with the next monomer in the chain. In other words, the monomer is an unsaturated compound which, after an addition reaction, becomes a saturated compound.

Questions & Answers

are UV rays dangerous?
Khathutshelo Reply
what's this?
i hv a problem with this chapter because i also have problem with Newton's laws of motion
Kearabetswe Reply
what is the wave model of atom ?
Trazy Reply
Can you state the Doppler effect in words
Nombuyiselo Reply
State Coulomb's law in words
the magnitude of the electrostatic force exerted point on each other is directly proportional to the product on magnitude of charges and inversely proportional to the square distance between them
Newton's first law of motion
Nnuso Reply
When an object is at rest or traveling at a constant velocity it will remain at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.
yes that's true
Always know Newton's second law of motion. It appears to be in every question paper
Is the normal force always 0
Mpilo Reply
no. newtons 3rd law states that if something exerts a force into something else it will experience that same magnitude of force but in the opposite direction. so the net force is equal to the force the object applies to the surface but in the opposite direction
define the term rate of reaction in word
David Reply
I think it a chemical process in which substance act mutually on each other.
how many bones are in the human body?
it's the rate at which the reactants are able to change to products
what is wave lengh
mama Reply
is the de broglie wavelength of the particle
calcium and magnesium, which one can displace aluminum from its compound?
Markia Reply
how is aluminum ion formed?
a substance that has the lower electronegativity which will be in this case the Ca -1.0 this is because the Ca would have a lower ionization energy -needs less energy to fill its outer most shell and therefore will cause a displacement of the Al
an Al ion would form when it has lost electrons and will normally be a cation -positively charged (3+)
molecules with the same molecular formula but different chain
Malaza Reply
what will be the answer
chain isomer
what is structural isomer?
Hey if you define an isomer it will come as an organic molecule with the same number of atoms,same molecule formula ,same molecular mass but different STRUCTURAL FORMULA so what we have is only the chain ,positional and functionally isomer.Never heard of STRUCTURAL isomer
what does the newton's law says?
there are 3 newtons laws which are newton's law of universal gravitation, law of cooling, law of motion
Did the feather or leaf hit the ground first?
Shaloom Reply
both at the same time. air friction ignored
2 to 30 minut long distance race 20 km what's the avarage speed for the race
Jamilla Reply
what is meaning of covalent bonds
Lungani Reply
bonds that exists between non metal atoms. each atom contribute electron(s) which will form a bond joining the two atoms. electrons in the bond now belongs to both atoms
how do we name haloalkanes
Thobeka Reply
how do we name haloalkanes
what are examples of haloalkanes
haloalkanes are compounds that consist of the halogen group chlorine bromine flourine and so on like 2-bromobutan

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 12 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Aug 03, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11244/1.2
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