(bio)Polymer Science


The objectives of this curricular unit are:

1. To have a knowledge about the mechanisms and kinetics of polymerization reactions, the correlation between the average degree of polymerization and the rate law, the effect of temperature on the rate law and to be able to use them on the design of a polymerization reactor. 

2. To have knowledge about the main industrial polymerization processes, including the synthesis of biopolymers (bioplastics, polysaccharides and protein based polymers).

3. Biopolymers: Classification; Production, extraction methods and purification methods. Design of stimuli-responsive polymeric systems.

4. Depolymerization and upscaling.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Ana Rita Cruz Duarte


Weekly - 4

Total - 70

Teaching language





J.M.G. Cowie, V. Arrighi, Polymers: Chemistry & Physics of Modern Materials, CRC Press, 3rd Ed., 2007

G. Odian, Principles of Polymerization, John Wiley & Sons, 4th Ed, 2004

F. Rodriguez, Principles of Polymer Systems, McGraw-Hill, 3ª Ed., 1983

P. C. Painter & M. M. Coleman. Essentials of Polymer Science and Engineering, DEStech Publications, Inc. 2009.

Rehm,B.H.A. (ed.) (2009) Microbial production of biopolymers and polymer precursors: applications and perspectives, Caister Academic Press

Ullrich,M. (ed.) (2009) Bacterial Polysaccharides: Current Innovations and FutureTrends, Caister Academic Press

 Relevant Scientific papers

Teaching method

The teaching comprises lectures and practical/laboratorial classes and a visit to an industrial polymerization plant. Lectures cover all the content according with the syllabus. Laboratorial classes are programmed to carry out practical works related to the lectures and there are also demonstrations of characterization equipment in research laboratories. The students prepare a seminar about a topic that mandatory covers the syllabus’ three parts. 

Evaluation method

1. Two tests or final exam, accounting for 50% of the final grade.

2. A seminar (group of 3 students) including elaboration and presentation. It accounts for 50% of the practical grade.

3. Laboratory team work (group of 3 students), including respective reports. It accounts for 50% of the practical grade.

The practical part contributes with 50% to the overall grade.

Subject matter

1. Introduction, Definitions and Classification of Polymers.

2. General characteristics of the mechanisms of gradual growth and chain growth and their comparison.

3. Polymerization by chain growth - Characteristics and kinetic study. Radical polymerization. Ionic polymerization. Coordination polymerization. Stereo-specific polymerization. Ziegler-Natta catalysts and metallocenes.

4. Radical copolymerization reactions.

5. Industrial polymerization processes.

6. Biopolymers: natural polymers, polymers synthesized by microorganisms, plants and algae, biomass polymers, protein-based polymers and polymers prepared from renewable source monomers. Processes of biosynthesis.

7. Design of intelligent polymer structures: polymers / polymer structures responsive to stimuli, physical stimuli, chemical stimuli or biological stimuli.

8. Depolymerization of thermoplastics, of gradually growing polymers, biomass; Pyrolysis of common plastic blends. Upscaling polymers.


Programs where the course is taught: