Polymer types

The types of polymers can be classified into 2 broad areas of study: polymers in chemistry and polymers in biology.

From chemistry we obtain, for example, insulin, glass and plastic, and from biology nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins.

In addition to scientific areas, polymers are divided into 2 large groups according to the material used for their synthesis: organic and inorganic polymers.

Summary types of polymers

The 2 large groups into which the types of polymers are divided, inorganic and organic, can be summarized as follows:

Inorganic polymers: they do not have carbon atoms in their main chain. They are derived from metals and minerals in natural processes or in laboratories.

Organic polymers: they have carbon atoms in their structure and can be natural or synthetic.

Natural: derived from molecules synthesized by living beings.

  • Polypeptides
  • Polysaccharides
  • Hydrocarbons

Synthetics (polymeric materials): by polymerization of other polymers.

  • Elastomers (thermoplastic, thermoset)
  • Semi-synthetic cellulose

Classification and examples of polymers

Inorganic polymers

Inorganic polymers do not contain carbon molecules in their backbone. There are 2 types: inorganic polymers derived from metals or minerals and those created in laboratories.

In everyday life, we can find many inorganic polymers derived from metals and minerals such as, for example:

  • Glass: it is found naturally and is also produced by man from the application of high temperatures in mixtures of silicon, aluminum, lime, among other raw materials.
  • Silicone: compound made mainly of silicon and oxygen that is used for the manufacture of prostheses and also as adhesives and insulators.

Organic polymers

Organic polymers are those that are generated by molecules that living beings synthesize and are grouped into: natural and synthetic.

Natural organic polymers


Polypeptides are chains of peptides and peptides are chains of amino acids. 20 types of amino acids are identified in living organisms, the combinations of which are the basis of proteins. Some examples of polypeptides are:

  • Globulin: soluble protein found mainly in blood, eggs, and milk.
  • Insulin: polypeptide hormone produced naturally by the pancreas as a regulator of glucose levels in the blood.
  • Protein: chain of polypeptides generated through the process of synthesis or translation of proteins that, in general, are produced in ribosomes with the information of the DNA carried by the messenger RNA.


Polysaccharides are chains of monosaccharides and the latter are a type of carbohydrate. An example of a monosaccharide is glucose and examples of polysaccharides we have, for example:

  • Starch: composed of 2 polysaccharides, it is the energy reserve of plants.
  • Cellulose: its structure is formed only by glucose molecules. It is found naturally in the cell membrane of fungi and plants.

See also Glucose.


Organic hydrocarbon polymers only have carbon and hydrogen chains. They are divided into alkanes, alkenes and alkynes according to the type of bond that their atoms join.

The hydrocarbons most used for the creation of polymers are:

  • Rubber: natural plant resin also known as latex.
  • Petroleum (crude): liquid hydrocarbon product of the accumulation of fossils in terrestrial biomass for millions of years.
  • Natural gas: hydrocarbon in a gaseous state formed mainly methane. It is also found in terrestrial biomass, a product of fossil fuel. Both oil and natural gas are non-renewable resources.

Synthetic organic polymers

Synthetic organic polymers are also referred to as polymeric materials or composite materials.

They are obtained through a process known as polymerization, which is defined as the use of certain chemical reactions on an organic or inorganic polymer for its growth in a chain and in stages or to group monomers (by addition or by condensation) and thus form molecules. double or triple weights.

The theory of polymerization was developed in 1920 by Hermann Staudinger, a German chemist who was awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Polymeric materials are generally derived from plastic but also from other inorganic polymers such as glass.

The most commonly used polymers for the creation of this type of polymers are: cellulose, rubber, starch and plastic. Synthetic organic polymers are classified into the following groups:


Elastomers is the general name for chain growth polymerization and stages used, for example, derivatives of petroleum and natural gas such as neoprene, the material from which diving suits are made.

Thermoplastic elastomers

Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are characterized as the only recyclable elastomers.

They are products of the polymerization of petroleum (derived from plastic) and rubber, generating, for example, the polyurethane (TPU) present in thermal insulators and the copolyester (COPE) used in the textile industry.

Thermostable elastomers

Thermoset elastomers can be recognized as being rigid plastics such as fiberglass and carbon fiber.

See also Plastic.


Cellulosic polymers are products of cellulose, modified naturally or in the laboratory. For its industrial use, it is usually combined with wood or cotton.

Examples of cellulosic polymers are cellophane and rayon (known in Spain as viscose).

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