Difference Between Natural Polymers and Synthetic Polymers

Polymers are everywhere around us. Whenever we take a look in our surroundings or our house, we find various items made of polymers. Everything that comes under your observation is made of polymer, natural or synthetic. You should know that polymers is a topic that we study in the subject of chemistry. When we consider a topic, it has to be in detail. Here, in this article, the focus will be on natural polymers, synthetic polymers and the difference between the two. Let us start with polymer first. A polymer is a large molecule that forms by the repeat actions of monomers or smaller molecules. Let’s move on to the types.

What is Natural Polymer?

Natural polymer is a material that is a result of the biological process. It is present in the human body and also in other forms of life such as plants and animals.  Proteins, amino acids, peptides, RNA, and DNA, are all forms of natural polymers found in the biological system. In plants and animal life. Also we can find natural polymers in one or the other type. Examples of natural polymers are wool, silk, honey, and others.

What is Synthetic Polymer?

Synthetic polymers are those materials that are a result of a process that takes place in a laboratory. As the name suggests, synthetic is something that is not natural. So, we can say that it is made in laboratories and factories by human beings. The persons who make this material can be scientists or engineers. The most common examples of synthetic polymers are PVC, acrylic, Teflon, and polythene.

Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Polymers               

It helps to have a better understanding of what exactly is the difference between natural and synthetic polymers. This way, it is easy to get a grasp of the two terms. As mentioned earlier, the natural polymer is an essential component of the biological system. By biological system, we mean the human body. The term also includes plant and animal life. Starch, protein, carbohydrates are good examples of natural polymers.  

A synthetic polymer is that that finds its way from the laboratory through many chemical processes. As you know, synthetic is human-made. It is a polymer that is synthesized in a laboratory. This material has vast applications in our day-to-day life. Polyethylene, PVC, Bakelite, nylon, and synthetic rubbers are solid examples of synthetic polymers.

We can write down the major points of difference between the two types of polymer as follows. 

Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Polymers               

Natural Polymers

Synthetic Polymers 

Natural polymers are polymers that are found naturally in our environment.

Synthetic polymers are polymers that are produced artificially by humans in a lab. 

They occur naturally 

Do not occur naturally.

It is produced from biological processes.

It is produced from chemical processes.

Most polymers are easily degradable by biological process.

Most polymers are hard to degrade by natural process. 


Examples of Natural Polymers 

Natural polymers are available in nature by the biological process. Most of the chemical compounds that are present in biological systems are polymer compounds. These natural polymers are primarily found in our environment, in our surroundings, and within the human system. Now, these polymers of the natural kind have three classifications – polysaccharides, polyamides, and polynucleotides.

Polysaccharides are polymers that are made of monosaccharide particles.  Common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and others. Polysaccharides are also found in animals and plant life. In plants, it is present as starch as stored carbohydrate, and in animals, it is storage carbohydrate present as glycogen.  

Polyamides, amino acids, and polypeptides are all-natural polymers found in a biological system. The polynucleotides include RNA and DNA. Fig.1

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The inspiration behind the production of Synthetic polymers is natural polymers. Scientists and engineers studied the natural polymer configuration and worked out a way to obtain the synthetic form. This type of artificial polymer is obtained from petroleum oil. Synthetic polymers get a further classification that has a base in the method of production, the components in use etc. 

Some of the polymers are a result of condensation whereas some polymers are products of addition. Polymers obtained from condensation are known as condensation polymers and from addition, polymerization is known as addition polymers. 

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Besides, some of the synthetic polymers get a classification as organic and inorganic polymers. Organic polymers are made of hydrocarbon particles whereas inorganic polymers are not made from hydrocarbons. Examples of this type of synthetic polymers are polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, Teflon, and others.  Fig.2

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Uses of Natural Polymers?

By now, you have understood that natural polymers are found in a natural way in our surroundings and within the biological systems of any life. Some excellent examples of natural polymers are wool, silk, natural rubbers, and honey that we get from our surroundings, from plants and animals. Starch and proteins are also natural polymers. The cellulose in vegetables and grains that form the fibre in our food is natural. Cellulose and starch are made from sugar; hence they are all polysaccharides which means many sugars. So, the uses of the natural polymer are various in our daily life.

2. What are the Uses of Synthetic Polymers in Our Daily Life?

You know that synthetic polymer is what we get as a result of chemical processes that take place in laboratories and factories. Some of the daily items that we use in our routine, in our house, in the office, at school - are made of synthetic polymer. Teflon, polythene, acrylic, PA, and PP are the different forms of synthetic polymer. It is in use in all its varied forms such as Teflon-coated non-stick pots and pans, polyvinyl chloride in pipes, and polythene. The PET bottles that you use for drinking water are made from synthetic polymer- the chemical name for this type of plastic is polyethylene terephthalate.