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Difference Between Addition and Condensation Polymerization

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Last updated date: 20th May 2024
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What is the Addition Polymer?

We all are surrounded by chemical reactions and come across many such things almost daily. Now if we see spaghetti, from its size and look we can define what a polymer looks like, although the structure of spaghetti would resemble a linear polymer. Before we get into the shape and types of polymer, it is important to understand the definition and meaning of polymer. So the word Polymer needs to be broken down in order to understand its meaning so the word “mer '' means unit and “poly” means many and when we add these two words together we get “many units' '.  Normally the word , ‘mer’ is referred to as a monomer. ‘Mono’, translates as one 'mer'. So in order to define polymer we can say that it's a material that is composed of many single “mers” which are also called monomers. A monomer in turn can consist of or is composed of one to many atoms which repeatedly makes up the structure of a polymer. 


A polymer can also be explained as a macromolecule formed by chemical bonding of larger numbers of molecules being added up together, now these repeating units are called monomers as mentioned earlier. The number of monomers within the polymer molecule can vary hugely and the order of which they appear in order and regularity. Their relative orientation, and the presence of differing monomers within the same polymer molecule can vary as well. The degree of polymerization which is also the number of monomers present in any natural polymer or synthetic polymer can be determined exactly in order to tailor the properties of the given materials.


The definition of polymers is vast. Monomers bonded together in twos, threes, and fours are called dimers,trimers and tetramers respectively, which works as a repeated chain of units in making the further structures. It can be called as oligomers and these oligomers in turn can also be termed as prepolymers if seen in the context of block copolymers. These copolymers are composed of monomers only but those can differ from one another, in short, these monomers can differ either by structure or compositions, and the quantity of each monomer with respect to the other in the same given polymer determines the material’s chemical and physical properties.


Before we look at the difference between addition polymerization and condensation polymerization, it is important to understand exactly what addition polymers and condensation polymers are. This would give the readers an idea of what is addition polymerization and what is condensation polymerization.


“ n” signifies the number of monomers that are joined repeatedly to make the polymer, the value can range from hundreds or even thousands.


Steps to Form an Additional Polymer

According to experts, an additional polymer is a polymer that is formed by simply linking monomers. This is done without the co-generation of other by-products. Further, it is important to note that additional polymers can be formed through chain polymerization. This is done when the polymer is formed by sequentially adding different monomer units to an active site of the chain reaction.


These results can also be achieved through polyaddition. Polyaddition refers to the process in which polymers are formed by carrying out an additional reaction between species of all degrees of polymerization.


It is also important to note that, usually, almost all polymers are unsaturated compounds - some examples of this include alkanes and alkenes. The process of addition polymerization also mainly takes place through the process of free radical mechanism.


This process is done in three steps. These three steps are the initiation of free radical, chain propagation, and termination of the chain.


Some Examples of Addition Polymers

Some examples of addition polymers are mentioned below. (Have to include images in this section. The images were taken from Google Images)


  1. Polyethylene


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  1. Polystyrene


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  1. Methacrylates


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What is Condensation Polymer?

Condensation polymers, on the other hand, are formed by linking monomers. However, the difference exists in the fact that this process generates various other products. In most cases, these products include water.


These polymers are formed by carrying out condensation reactions. In this reaction, the molecules are joined together by losing small molecules as by-products. The most commonly lost molecules in this reaction are water and methanol.


Another process related to the formation of condensation polymers is polycondensation. In this process, the polymers are formed when condensation reactions are carried out between species of all degrees of polymerization.


This process can also be done through condensative chain polymerization. In condensative chain polymerization, the polymers are formed by sequential addition or the condensation reaction of the monomers to an active site in a chain reaction.


The other important and alternative forms of polymerization are polyaddition and chain polymerization. Both of these processes can also be used to get addition polymers.


It is important for readers to remember that condensation polymerization is a type of step-growth polymerization. This means that linear polymers are produced from bifunctional monomers, which refers to compounds with two reactive end groups.


Some examples of common condensation polymers are polyacetals, proteins, and polyamides. This is almost everything that students need to know about addition and condensation polymers. We will also discuss some questions related to addition and condensation polymers in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section later.


Some Examples of Condensation Polymers

Some examples of condensation polymers are mentioned below. (Have to include images in this section. The images are taken from Google Images)


  1. Cellulose


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  1. Starch


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What is the Difference between Addition and Condensation Polymerization?

Now, readers must understand the meaning of addition and condensation polymers. So, the next obvious step is to discuss the difference between addition polymerization and condensation polymerization.


To help readers understand the difference between addition polymerization and condensation polymerization, we have created a list of differences. But before that, let’s start at the very beginning.


Polymerization is defined as the process of combining a large number of small molecules to form a single macromolecule. There are integral steps and products used in this process. One such important product is called a monomer. Monomers are small molecules that act as building blocks of polymers.


Based on this kind of reaction, one can state that polymerization is divided into two groups. These two groups are addition polymerization and condensation polymerization. The addition polymerization definition is that this is the process of repeated addition of monomers. These monomers possess double or triple bonds to form polymers.


On the other hand, condensation polymerization is a process that involves repeated condensation reactions between tri-functional or bi-functional monomers. Let’s look at the table below to understand the difference between both of these polymerization reaction groups.


Addition Polymerization

Condensation Polymerization

Monomers should either have a double or triple bond

Monomers must have either two similar or different functional groups

No by-products are produced in this reaction

By-products are produced in this process. Some by-products include ammonia, water, and HCl

This process also results in the addition of monomers to form polymers

In this process, monomers are condensed to form polymers

If one wishes to find out the molecular weight of the final polymers, then all one needs to do is multiply the molecular weight of all monomers

The total molecular weight of the final product cannot be found by multiplying the molecular weight of all the monomers

In addition polymerization, Lewis acids, Lewis bases, and radical initiators are used as catalysts

Different molecules are used as catalysts in the process of condensation polymerization

Some common examples of addition polymerization are polyethylene, Teflon, and PVC

Some common examples of condensation polymerization are bakelite, nylon, and silicon


From this table, it must be quite obvious that the main difference between both addition and condensation polymerization is that in the case of addition polymerization, the polymers are formed through the addition of monomers. This process does not involve the formation of any by-products.


Condensation polymerization, on the other hand, forms polymers through the process of condensation. In this process, more than one different monomers are used to form small molecules like HCl, water, and ammonia as by-products.


Fun Facts about Addition Polymerization and Condensation Polymerization

Till now, we have looked at the difference between addition polymer and condensation polymer and the meaning of addition and condensation polymerization. We will also look at some questions related to this topic.


Before that, it is important for readers to learn about the difference between addition polymer and condensation polymer and the meaning of addition and condensation polymerization. Let’s learn some interesting facts about the difference between addition and condensation polymers.


Did you know that addition polymers are usually chemically inert? You might also be interested to know that addition polymers include strong C-C bonds. Because of this reason, these polymers are non-biodegradable and very difficult to recycle.


On the other hand, condensation polymers tend to be more biodegradable. This is because the backbone of those molecules contains weaker bonds. This means that the peptide or ester bonds between the monomers can be hydrolyzed. This can be done in the presence of catalysts or bacterial enzymes.

FAQs on Difference Between Addition and Condensation Polymerization

1. Mention the reaction that is accompanied by the removal of by-products during the formation of polymers.

The reaction that results in the elimination of by-products while forming polymers is condensation polymerization. In this process, the molecules that are removed are water and HCl.

2. What are Linear Polymers ?

A linear polymer is defined as a long continuous chain of carbon-carbon bonds along with two valence bonds attached primarily to hydrogen or another hydrocarbon that is smaller in size. By looking at the stock purchase we can easily describe a linear polymer for example when we see nylons structure we can easily figure out that it is a linear polymer.

3. Is the chain growth process usually much slower than the step-growth process? If not, then why?

In truth, the chain growth process is usually much slower than the addition reaction. This is because the chain growth process is usually followed by an equilibrium step process.

4. Mention the process in which the molecular weight of polymers almost remains unchanged while the entire process progresses.

In the addition polymerization process the total molecular weight of the polymers remains almost unchanged with the increasing conversion. Further, the total molecular weight of the polymers increases during the step-growth process.

5. In the process of addition polymerization, what does the entire reaction contain at any point in time?

At any point in time, the process of addition polymerization contains free radical chains and initiators, full-grown polymer molecules, and unreacted monomer molecules.