Difference Between Monomer and Polymer

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Monomer and Polymer

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A molecule is defined as a group of at least two atoms. As a result, a small, recognizable unit is formed, from which a specific pure component can be extracted. However, the substance's makeup and chemical properties can be preserved. Monomer and polymer are just two examples of these types of molecules.

The actual distinction between monomer and polymer is frequently misunderstood, if not completely misunderstood, in the field of material sciences and plastics. According to research, Because the phrases refer to plastic, they can refer to any flexible synthetic or semi-synthetic organic material that can be molded into solid objects. Synthetic monomers and polymers, on the other hand, played a crucial part in the history of plastics, revolutionizing material sciences in the early twentieth century and, as a result, emerging as a major player in the contemporary industrial economy. Chemists' capacity to create synthetic molecules to achieve desired qualities including electrical conductivity, heat resistance, impact resistance, strength, stiffness, and density revolutionized the globe (What’s the Difference Between Monomers & Polymers?, 2018).

Monomer vs Polymer

The primary distinction between monomers and polymers is that monomers are small single components that combine to produce polymers, whereas polymers are made up of multiple monomers. The two molecules have a connection to one another. They are, nevertheless, two distinct compounds with variances in complexity, weight, and units.

Difference Between Monomer and Polymer in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Monomer Polymer
The origin Monomer comes from the Greek term’s "mono" and "meros," which both indicate "one component." The term "polymer" comes from the Greek words "poly" and "meros," which both indicate "many parts."
The meaning They are the building blocks of polymers, and they refer to solitary units. They refer to macromolecules that are made up of numerous monomer blocks.
The complexity They are more basic molecules. They are more complicated molecules.
The molecular weight They have a low molecular weight. Their molecular weight is really large (Difference Between Monomer and Polymer (With Table), n.d.).

What is a Monomer?

A monomer is a single atom, tiny molecule, or molecular fragment that, when coupled with other monomers of the same or similar sorts, forms a bigger macromolecule called a polymer. During a chemical reaction known as polymerization, monomers join together to produce polymers as the molecules share electrons.

According to research, Monomer is derived from the Greek words "mono," which means "one," and "meros," which means "part." Monomers, as the prefix implies, are a single, simpler basic unit that is of little importance in and of itself, but when joined, they are the building blocks that construct a more complicated structure. Bio-monomers, which are not to be confused with synthetic monomers, combine to generate biopolymers, which perform a variety of tasks in the body and in the environment. Synthetic monomers combined in a repeating chain produce synthetic polymers via creating chemical bonds or binding supramolecular, according to material science.

There are many distinct types of plastics since there are so many different monomers that can be mixed in so many different ways. Organic molecules which are good examples of the same, such as:

  • Ethylene
  • Propylene
  • Styrene
  • Phenol
  • Acetonitrile
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ethylene glycol is a kind of ethylene glycol that
  • Vinyl chloride is a kind of chloride (which polymerizes into polyvinyl chloride PVC) (What’s the Difference Between Monomers & Polymers?, 2018)

Glycosidic linkages can join sugar monomers to produce polymers like glycogen, starch, and cellulose in the case of glucose.

Small Monomer Names

The compounds have names when only a few monomers combine to create a polymer:

  • Dimer: A polymer made up of two monomers.
  • Three monomer units make up a trimer.
  • Four monomer units make up a tetramer.
  • Five monomer units make to a pentamer.
  • Six monomer units make to a hexamer.
  • Seven monomer units make up a heptamer.
  • Eight monomer units make up an octamer.
  • Nine monomer units make up a nonamer.
  • 10 monomer units in a decamer
  • 12 monomer units in a dodecamer
  • 20 monomer units in an eicosamer (Monomer Definition and Examples, n.d.)

What is a Polymer?

According to research, A polymer is a big molecule, or macromolecule, made up of monomers, which are small repeating molecular structure components. Covalent bonds are used to chemically connect the repeating molecular units.

Moreover, Polymer is derived from the Greek words "poly" (many) and "meros" (material) (part). Polymers, like monomers, can be either natural (biopolymers) or manufactured macromolecules made up of repeating units. The terms 'polymer' and 'plastic' are interchangeable in material sciences. Polymers, on the other hand, are a considerably bigger class of molecules that include plastics and have a wide range of properties that allow them to execute a variety of tasks.

So basically, the  Polymers are researched in polymer science (which includes polymer chemistry and physics), biophysics, and materials science and engineering, among other topics. Additionally, according to studies, Polymer science has traditionally focused on products that result from the covalent chemical bonding of repeating units. The Supramolecular polymers generated by non-covalent linkages are a rapidly growing field. Latex rubber polyisoprene is an example of a natural polymer, while styrofoam polystyrene is an example of a synthetic polymer. So, nearly all biological macromolecules—proteins (polyamides), nucleic acids (polynucleotides), and polysaccharides—are completely polymeric or contain a substantial proportion of polymeric components in biological contexts.

There are two types of polymers: naturally occurring and synthetic or man-made polymers.


For ages, natural polymeric materials like hemp, shellac, amber, wool, silk, and natural rubber have been employed. Other natural polymers, such as cellulose, the major component of wood and paper, are available.


Polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, synthetic rubber, phenol-formaldehyde resin (or Bakelite), neoprene, nylon, polyacrylonitrile, PVB, silicone, and many other synthetic polymers are listed in rough order of international demand. Every year, around 330 million tonnes of these polymers are produced.

Basically, the continuously linked backbone of a polymer used to make plastics is made up of carbon atoms. Now, Polyethylene ('polythene' in British English) is a basic example of a repeat unit or monomer whose repeat unit is ethylene. Several additional structures exist; for example, silicon is used to make silicones, which include products like Silly Putty and waterproof plumbing sealant.  Moreover, Polymer backbones, such as those of polyethylene glycol, polysaccharides (in glycosidic linkages), and DNA, all include oxygen (in phosphodiester bonds).

The History

According to research, Since the dawn of time, polymers have been vital components of commodities. Wool (keratin), cotton and linen fibers (cellulose) for clothes and paper reed (cellulose) for paper are only a few instances of how our forefathers made products from polymer-containing raw materials. Long after the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec had begun using it as a material to produce balls, waterproof fabrics, and containers, the latex sap of "caoutchouc" trees (natural rubber) reached Europe in the 16th century from South America.

The manipulation of polymers chemically dates back to the 19th century, however, the nature of these species was unknown at the time. The behavior of polymers was first explained using Thomas Graham's idea, which described them as a colloidal aggregation of tiny molecules held together by unknown forces.

Despite a lack of theoretical understanding, the potential of polymers to produce creative, accessible, and inexpensive materials were quickly recognized. The work of Braconnot, Parkes, Ludersdorf, Hayward, and others on natural polymer modification resulted in numerous notable improvements in the field. Celluloid, Galalith, Parkesine, rayon, vulcanized rubber, and, later, Bakelite were all discovered as a result of their contributions, and all of these materials quickly entered industrial manufacturing processes and made their way into homes as garment components (e.g., fabrics, buttons), crockery, and decorative items.

According to studies, Hermann Staudinger's foundational book "Über Polymerisation,"[16] published in 1920, claimed that polymers were lengthy chains of atoms united by covalent bonds. Also, His work was hotly contested for a long time before being recognized by the scientific world. Moreover, Staudinger was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in 1953.

Polymers entered a golden period around the 1930s when novel varieties were developed and immediately put to industrial use, displacing naturally produced resources. This progress was fueled by a strong economic driver in the industrial sector, and it was aided by a large academic community that contributed with novel monomer synthesis from less expensive raw materials, more efficient polymerization processes, improved polymer characterization techniques, and advanced theoretical understanding of polymers.

The Synthesis

Polymerization is the process of creating a covalently bound chain or network from a collection of tiny molecules known as monomers. Some chemical groups from each monomer may be lost during the polymerization process. This happens when PET polyester is polymerized. Terephthalic acid (HOOC—C6H4—COOH) and ethylene glycol (HO—CH2—CH2—OH) are the monomers, but the repeating unit is —OC—C6H4—COO—CH2—CH2—O—, which is a mixture of the two monomers with the loss of two water molecules. A repeat unit or monomer residue is a discrete fragment of each monomer that is integrated into the polymer.

Step-growth polymerization and chain polymerization are the two main categories of synthetic techniques. The key distinction between the two is that in chain polymerization, monomers are added to the chain one at a time, as in polystyrene, but in step-growth polymerization, monomers may mix directly, as in polyester. Polycondensation, in which a low-molar-mass by-product is generated in each reaction step, and polyaddition are two types of step-growth polymerization.

Plasma polymerization, for example, does not cleanly fit into either group. With or without a catalyst, synthetic polymerization reactions can be carried out. The synthesis of biopolymers in the laboratory, particularly proteins, is a hot topic.

Polysaccharides, polypeptides, and polynucleotides are the three main types of biopolymers. They may be generated in living cells by enzyme-mediated processes, such as DNA polymerase-catalyzed DNA creation. Multiple enzyme-mediated mechanisms are involved in protein synthesis, which transcribes genetic information from DNA to RNA and then uses that information to build the desired protein from amino acids. Following translation, the protein can be further changed to provide the proper shape and function. Rubber, suberin, melanin, and lignin are examples of biopolymers.

Natural polymers like cotton, starch, and rubber were widely used for many years before synthetic polymers like polyethylene and perspex became available. Chemical modification of naturally existing polymers is used to make many commercially relevant polymers. The synthesis of nitrocellulose from the reaction of nitric acid and cellulose, as well as the formation of vulcanized rubber from the heating of natural rubber in the presence of sulfur, are two notable instances. Polymers can be changed in a variety of ways, including oxidation, cross-linking, and end-capping.

A polymeric material's structure can be defined at several length scales, ranging from the sub-nm to the macroscopic. There is a hierarchy of structures, with each step laying the groundwork for the next. The identity of a polymer's constituent monomers is the beginning point for describing its structure. The microstructure, on the other hand, simply depicts the arrangement of these monomers within the polymer on a single chain scale. The microstructure of a polymer impacts its ability to produce distinct phases with varied configurations, such as crystallization, glass transition, or microphase separation. These characteristics are crucial in establishing a polymer's physical and chemical properties (Polymer, n.d.).

Main Differences Between Monomer and Polymer In Points

  • Monomers are single molecular units that, when combined, form a bigger molecular unit known as a polymer.
  • A polymer is a substance made up of very large molecules, sometimes known as macromolecules. The repeating of numerous tiny units results in the formation of these molecules.
  • Monomers and their dimer counterparts are the archetypal plasmonic structures. The two bases for classifying a monomer are its origin and synthesis.
  • Now, Polymers can also be found in a variety of configurations in plastic as well as naturally in an individual's DNA. Smaller molecules, called monomers, are used to make both natural and manmade polymers.
  • Addition reactions are one of the characteristics of monomers. These are made up of a ring of 3 to 7 atoms or a double bond between two atoms. Condensation polymerizations are monomers with two or more reactive atomic groups.
  • In polymers, Toughness, elasticity, and viscoelasticity are only a few of their unique physical characteristics (Difference Between Monomer and Polymer (With Table), n.d.).


Monomers and polymers are two of the most important elements for the survival of all living beings. Monomers and polymers have distinct traits, properties, and applications. Both terms have their origins in Greek language. Monomers and polymers can be both natural and manufactured in nature. Thus, by now, we have gathered enough knowledge about the differences between a monomer and a polymer.


  • Monomer Definition and Examples. (n.d.). Retrieved from ThoughtCo.: https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-monomer-605375
  • Polymer. (n.d.). Retrieved from WIKIPEDIA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymer
  • What’s the Difference Between Monomers & Polymers? (2018, September 17). Retrieved from OSBORNE: https://www.osborneindustries.com/news/monomer-vs-polymer/


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"Difference Between Monomer and Polymer." Diffzy.com, 2024. Wed. 12 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-monomer-and-polymer-464>.

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