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Chemistry 421

CHEM 421

Catalog Entry

CHEM 421. Polymer Chemistry
Three hours lecture (3).

Prerequisite: CHEM 302

An introduction and overview of polymers including synthesis, chemistry, properties, significance, and manufacturing processes.

A study of synthetic marcromolecules with emphasis on techniques of preparation, methods of characterization, and the relationship between structure and properties.


Detailed Description of Content of the Course

All of the available textbooks for a course such as this one contain far more material than can be covered in a one semester introductory course; the topics presented must be selected carefully to give the student a broad overview of the field but with sufficient depth to support study of more advanced topics.

Since the polymer field is changing so rapidly, and since the textbooks contain a limited amount of material on end uses of polymers, the textbook is supplemented by library readings selected from a wide range of sources ranging from research journals to trade journals.

The major topics covered in this course are:

1. Basic principles and terminology
2. Nomenclature
3. Molecular weight and polymer solutions
4. Crystal structure and polymer morphology
5. Free radical vinyl polymerization
6. Vinyl polymerization with ionic and group transfer initiators
7. Coordination polymerization
8. Step-reaction and ring-opening polymerization
9. Chemical reactions of polymers
10. Chemical structure and polymer properties
11. Evaluation, characterization, and analysis of polymers
12. Industrial production, properties, and end uses of certain specific polymers
13. New polymers and polymer applications

There is no laboratory experience associated with this course, but lecture demonstrations serve to give the student some feeling for the actual preparation and properties of polymers.

Students are given reading assignments from materials placed on reserve in the Library. The purpose of these readings is to acquaint the student with the wide variety of polymer literature and to provide an introduction to topics not adequately covered in the textbook.

Although the course does not have a strong mathematical orientation, there is some quantitative problem solving which can be accomplished largely using information obtained in general chemistry and organic chemistry. Some use of calculus is necessary in the consideration of the kinetics of polymerization, but a course in calculus is not a prerequisite to this course.


Detailed Description of Conduct of the Course

Class time is devoted to presenting essential concepts, discussion of outside readings, problem solving, and simple experiments presented as lecture demonstrations. Tests are typically about 20% problem solving, 60% questions which require memorization of material from the class, the textbook, and outside readings; and 20% questions which have no single correct answer and which require the student to synthesize a reasonable answer utilizing both some knowledge of polymers and scientific common sense.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Upon on completion of this course, the student will

1. Have a broad overview of polymer chemistry.
2. Have a working knowledge of this important and rapidly growing branch of chemistry which is responsible for the employment of a high percentage of all industrial chemists.
3. Be prepared for further reading of the polymer literature or for a graduate course in polymer chemistry.


Assessment Measures

Assessment of the student's success in the course is based on the grades for three tests, the final exam, weekly quizzes, and homework. The quizzes cover the previous week's work. To determine a student's final letter grade, the following percentage weightings are used:

  • Three tests 45%
  • Final exam 20%
  • Weekly quizzes 30%
  • Homework 5%

The homework is far more important than the 5% weighting would indicate, since the amount of time spent on the homework directly influences the student's understanding of the material and performance on the tests and exams. The tests, exam, quizzes and homework assess the student's general working knowledge of the field as mentioned in student outcome 1., 2., and 3. in part D.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

September 2001 Reviewed by Walter S. Jaronski, Chair