A polymer is a large molecule (macromolecule) composed of repeating structural units. These sub-units are typically connected by covalentchemical bonds. Although the term polymer is sometimes taken to refer to plastics, it actually encompasses a large class of compounds comprising both natural and synthetic materials with a wide variety of properties.
Because of the extraordinary range of properties of polymeric materials, they play an essential and ubiquitous role in everyday life. This role ranges from familiar synthetic plastics and elastomers to natural biopolymers such as nucleic acids and proteins that are essential for life.
Natural polymeric materials such as shellac, amber, and natural rubber have been used for centuries. A variety of other natural polymers exist, such as cellulose, which is the main constituent of wood and paper. The list of synthetic polymers includes synthetic rubber, Bakelite, neoprene,nylon, PVC, polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyacrylonitrile, PVB, silicone, and many more.
Most commonly, the continuously linked backbone of a polymer used for the preparation of plastics consists mainly of carbon atoms. A simple example is polyethylene ('polythene' in British English), whose repeating unit is based on ethylene monomer. However, other structures do exist; for example, elements such as silicon form familiar materials such as silicones, examples being Silly Putty and waterproof plumbing sealant. Oxygen is also commonly present in polymer backbones, such as those of polyethylene glycol, polysaccharides (in glycosidic bonds), and DNA(in phosphodiester bonds).