It is hard to imagine a world without synthetic polymers for packaging, clothing, transport, sport – the list is endless. Some of their chemical names have become household terms – polythene, polystyrene. They are all around us, yet rarely is the question addressed in this lecture asked “Why so ubiquitous, what is so special?”
Polymers can stretch or bounce, they are usually electrical or thermal insulators (though electrically active ones are ‘hot’ developments), they are tough and they are light. In this lecture, we will explore the consequences of the “poly” prefix, which tells us they are enormously long molecules and which give them this package of highly desirable properties. We shall look at one or two examples of experimental observation that help us understand how the properties are related to the molecular size and shape. Finally we will consider, too, how to handle such potentially intractable beasts and thus fabricate objects from them.
Tea/coffee from 18:00, and also after the lecture.