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Natural Polymer- Introduction to Polymer, Classification of Polymer, Examples, Difference between Natural and Synthetic polymer, Practice Problems, FAQs

We take a variety of food in our daily diet as a source of different nutrients like protein, carbohydrates etc., which are not only contribute to the growth or act as a source of energy but also essential for the metabolic activity performed by the biological system. Can you guess the molecular weight of these proteins or carbohydrates? A few atomic mass units? No, it is in thousands if not lakhs.

Protein, which is also known as polypeptide is made by combining a large number of amino acids with the help of peptide linkage to form a macromolecular structure. Similarly, in the case of carbohydrates monosaccharide units combine together to form a giant carbohydrate.

You must be wondering what is macromolecule?

Macromolecules generally refer to the polymers which are made from a large number of the smaller unit called monomers and the polymers like protein and carbohydrates is obtained from living organisms and is classified as natural polymer.

Let’s learn more about natural polymers with examples in this article.

Table of content

  • Introduction to Polymerisation
  • Classification of Polymers
  • Examples of Natural Polymer
  • Difference between Natural and Synthetic Polymer
  • Practice Problems
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Introduction to Polymerisation

In Greek, polymer signifies "many parts."A polymer is a large molecule or a macromolecule that is composed of many subunits known as monomers. Polymers can be found everywhere. From the strand of our DNA, which is an example of a naturally occurring polymer, to polypropylene, which is used as a plastic all over the world being classified as a synthetic polymer.

Polymers can be found naturally in animals and plants known as natural polymers or man-made which is known as synthetic polymers. Polymers have a variety of unique chemicals and physical properties that allow them to be used in everyday life.

Polymers are all formed through the polymerization process, in which their constituent elements, known as monomers, react together to form long polymeric chains, which have a 3-dimensional network structure.

The type of polymerization mechanism employed is determined by the functional groups attached to the reactants. Almost all macromolecules in biology are either completely polymeric or composed of long polymeric chains for example- carbohydrates, protein, lipids, DNA, etc.

Classification of polymer

Polymer on the basis of the source from which it is obtained is classified as

a) Natural polymers: These are the type of polymers found in living organisms and are made up of inorganic or organic subunits. These occur naturally and contribute to an organism's vital functioning role. Polysaccharides, such as cellulose and starch, are polymers of sugars; proteins are polymers of amino acids, and natural rubber is a polymer of isoprene etc.

b) Synthetic polymers: These polymers are prepared in the laboratory as a by-product of specific chemical reactions. These macromolecules do not exist naturally and must be synthesized. For example-Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Buna-S, and Nylon-6,6..

c) Semi-synthetic polymers are derived from natural cellulose and petroleum byproducts. The polymer comes from nature, but it is eventually synthesised in the laboratory. As a result, it was named semi-synthetic polymers. Rayon, and cellulose nitrate, are some examples of these types of polymers.

Examples of natural polymer

Polymers can be found in abundance in nature. Many natural polymers, such as nucleic acids and proteins, are found in our bodies. Cellulose is another natural polymer that is an important structural component of plants. The most of natural polymers are formed from condensation polymers, and water is obtained as a byproduct of this formation from monomers.. Some important examples of natural polymers are -

a. Carbohydrates: which are found in all living are found in all living things. They are composed of monomers called monosaccharides. The number of monosaccharide units in a carbohydrate molecule determines whether it is di, tri, tetra, or polysaccharide. Carbohydrates serve as fuel and supply a lot of energy. It is represented by the general formula Cn(H2O)n where ‘n’ represents the number of atoms/molecules of carbon or water molecule present. Carbohydrates act as a source of fuels and provide a lot of energy. Carbohydrates are chemically composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen elements. Carbohydrates, which include sugars, starches and fibres are essential nutrients found in fruits, grains, vegetables, milk and other dairy products. They are the basic food groups that are essential for living a healthy life. A few examples of monosaccharides are- glucose, fructose etc. Some example of disaccharides is- sucrose, lactose etc. Some example of polysaccharide includes starch, cellulose, glycogen etc.

b. Proteins are polypeptides that are composed of individual amino acids These amino acids are combined with the help of peptide linkages to form the macromolecular structure. The most well-known proteins that aid in the catalysis of all biological reactions are enzymes. Proteins are extremely complex molecules that play an active role in the most fundamental and important aspects of life like metabolic activities, movements, defence mechanisms, cellular communications, and molecular recognitions. Enzymes are well-known proteins that aid in the catalysis of biological reactions, Glycoproteins are proteins with sugars that are present on cell membranes which helps in cell-to-cell recognition. Lipoproteins are lipid-protein blends which are also present on the cell membrane that influences biochemical reactions.

c. Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA):

DNA is a polymer of nucleotides Nucleotides contains a. -2-D-deoxyribose pentose sugar

linked on either side with phosphoric acid, and one of the nitrogen-containing cyclic

bases.from adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine(T). DNA is again a part of

chromosomes present in each of a living organism. A group of nucleotides in DNA controls

the activities of the cell and biotic organisms. The sequence of nucleotides and hence DNA

are unique for each biotic species.

The polymer DNA strand is twisted along the chain and forms a pair with an another DNA strand to form a helix like structure. The two DNA strands are thus parallel to each other. The two strands and the helix is stabilized by formation of hydrogen bond between the base present in opposite DNA strand.

The name Deoxy ribo refers to the pentose carbohydrate and acid to the acid nature due to the phosphoric acid present in the molecule.

d. Ribonucleic Acid(RNA): RNA is essential in protein synthesis, which primarily involves the decoding and translation of genetic sequence as well as transcription to produce proteins.

RNA like DNA is a polymer od nucleotides containing phosphoric acid, a pentose sugar, and one of the nitrogen-containing cyclic bases. The difference form DNA are

  • The sugar is pentose and not a deoxygenated pentose.
  • The bases used in the nucleotide is either adenine (A), or guanine (G),or cytosine (C), or uracil(U). Instead of thiamine,the fourth base base present in RNA is uracil.
  • RNA is made up of only one strand which but adopts a complex folding structure.

e. Rubber: Natural rubber is made from rubber latex, which is a colloidal rubber dispersion in water. Natural rubber is a polymer of isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene) with the chemical formula(C5H8) that is joined together to form a long polymer chain of cis-1,4-polyisoprene. Due to its properties like high water absorbing capacity, non-resistant to oxidizing agents, and becoming soft at high temperatures it is used in making different goods like footwear, seat, airbags etc. India including Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, is among the world's leading producers of natural rubber.

f. Silk: It is a naturally occurring sericin and fibroin biopolymer. This polymer can be found in arthropod species. Furthermore, the composition of the silk produced varies depending on the type of insect involved. Bombyx Mori is a silkworm that has been used for commercial silk production for many years. Silkworms of various species produce different varieties of silk. It can be distinguished by its lustre and texture. Tassar, Kosa, and Mooga are a few examples. Silkmoths of various species produce them. The mulberry silkmoth is one of the most common types of silkmoth.

g. Cellulose: Anselme Payen, a French chemist, was the first to discover cellulose in 1838. It was used to create the first thermoplastic, celluloid, in 1890. Cellulose is oxygen, carbon, and a hydrogen-containing complex carbohydrate with general formula(C6H10O5)n. Many cellulose properties are affected by the degree of polymerization or chain length, as well as the number of glucose molecules that comprise the polymer molecule. It is chiral, tasteless, and odourless. This organic compound is biodegradable and water-soluble.

Cotton contains approximately 90% cellulose. The cellulose content of wood is 40-45 per cent, while dried hemp contains 57 per cent.

g) Starch: Starch is composed of long chains of sugar units that are linked together. The most basic form of starch is the linear polymer amylose, whereas the branched form is amylopectin. The primary function of starch is to assist plants to store energy. Starch is a source of sugar in the diet of animals. Animals use amylase, an enzyme found in saliva and the pancreas that breaks down starch for energy. The general formula of the starch (C6H10O5)n.

h. Chitin: Chitin is a long polymer of the glucose derivative N-acetylglucosamine. Chitin is formed by the synthesis of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine units (2-(acetylamino-2-deoxy-D-glucose)). Chitin is an important carbon and nitrogen source for marine organisms. It is one of nature's most abundantly renewable polymers. Chitin can only be broken down by chitinolytic bacteria.

This is the most important step in recycling nutrients back to the oceans. An amyl group is attached to the glucose molecule instead of a hydroxyl group.

Difference between Natural and Synthetic Polymers

Natural Polymer

Synthetic Polymer

These occur naturally and contribute to an organism's vital functioning role. Polysaccharides, such as cellulose and starch,

These polymers are prepared in the laboratory as a by-product of specific chemical reactions

Natural polymers are biodegradable in nature.

Synthetic polymers are generally non-decomposable and non-biodegradable in nature.

It is obtained from natural sources like plants and animals and if needed it is processed

It is obtained from petroleum products and prepared through a chemical reaction.

Example: protein, natural rubber, starch etc.

Example: Buna-S, Buna-N, Nylon-6,6 etc.

Practice Problems

Q1. Which among the polymer is not an example of a natural polymer?

A. Starch
B. Synthetic rubber
C. Polyethylene
D. Both B and C

Answer: (D)

Solution: Natural polymers occur naturally from plants and animals and contribute to an organism's vital functioning role. They are generally biodegradable in nature((i.e they can be degraded into simpler units in the presence of microorganisms).

Polysaccharides, such as cellulose and starch are some examples of natural polymers. Whereas polyethene and synthetic rubber is an example of synthetic polymers that are prepared in the laboratory as a by-product of specific chemical reactions. Therefore, option (D) is correct as both are not an example of natural polymers.

Q2. Select the correct option with respect to the natural polymer.

A. It is generally obtained from plants and animals made up of organic and inorganic subunits
B. Natural polymer is generally biodegradable in nature
C. Silk, protein, and carbohydrates are some examples of natural polymers
D. All of the above

Answer: (D)

Solution: Natural polymers: These are the type of polymers which are obtained from plant and animals naturally and are made up of inorganic or organic subunits. Natural polymers are biodegradable in nature(i.e they can be degraded into simpler units in the presence of microorganisms).A few examples of natural polymers include- silk, protein, carbohydrates, cellulose etc.

Q3. Select the correct option for the monomer used in the preparation of natural rubber.

A. Hexamethylenediamine and adipic acid
B. Caprolactam
C. Tetrafluoroethylene
D. Isoprene

Answer:(D)

Solution: Isoprene is a monomer used in the preparation of natural rubber. Hexamethylenediamine and adipic acid is a monomers of Nylon-6,10. Tetrafluoroethylene is a monomer of Teflon. Nylon-6 is formed by heating caprolactam at temperatures ranging from 533 K to 543 K. Nylon-6 is also known as Perlon-L. Therefore option (D) is correct.

Q4. Select the correct option with respect to the Deoxyribonucleic acid.

A. It is a cellular molecule divided into chromosomes
B. Adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and uracil(U) are the heterocyclic bases found in DNA
C. Primarily involves the decoding and translation of genetic sequence
D. It contains the same set of nitrogenous cyclic bases which is present in RNA

Answer:(A)

Solution: Deoxyribonucleic acid(DNA) is a cellular molecule divided into chromosomes. There are four nitrogen-containing cyclic bases which include- Adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thiamine.

RNA is essential in protein synthesis, which primarily involves the decoding and translation of genetic sequence as well as transcription to produce proteins. RNA contains the same set of nitrogenous bases as DNA except for the thiamine which is replaced by uracil(U) present in the RNA.

Therefore, only option (A) is correct.

Frequently asked questions

Q1. Why are natural polymers is also known as biopolymers?
Answer:
Biopolymers are polymers that are produced or derived from living organisms such as plants and microbes rather than petroleum, which has traditionally been used as a source of polymers. The primary sources of biopolymers are renewable. Generally, biopolymers are biodegradable, which means they can be broken down by microorganisms into carbon dioxide, methane, water, inorganic compounds, or biomass.

Q2. What are biodegradable polymers?
Answer:
Biodegradable polymers are those that decompose into simpler units in either an aerobic or anaerobic environment with the assistance of microorganisms/enzymes.

Examples include starch, cellulose, proteins, DNA, and RNA are some examples of biodegradable polymers.

Q3. What is the difference between disaccharides and polysaccharides compounds?
Answer:
A disaccharide is formed when two monosaccharides combine. Lactose, sucrose, maltose, and other carbohydrates with two monomers are examples. Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates formed through the polymerization of many monomers. Polysaccharides include glycogen, cellulose, starch, and others that have extensive branching and are homopolymers (made up of only glucose units).

Q4. What is the difference between natural and synthetic rubber?
Answer:
Natural rubber is made from rubber latex, a colloidal rubber dispersion in water. Natural rubber is a polymer of isoprene (2-methyl-1,3-butadiene) with the chemical formula(C5H8) that is joined together to form a long polymer chain of cis-1,4-polyisoprene. Due to its properties like high water-absorbing capacity, non-resistant to an oxidizing agent, and becoming soft at high temperatures it is used in making different goods like footwear, seat, airbags etc.

Whereas, synthetic rubbers are artificial rubbers made chemically primarily from petroleum byproducts and natural gas. Buna-S, Neoprene, and Buna-N are some examples of synthetic rubber.

Related topics

Condensation polymer

Preparation of polythene with mechanism

Use Of Polymer

Biodegradable Polymer

Molecular mass of polymer

Rubber

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