Polymer of the Month

A Periodic Exploration of Strange and Wonderful Macromolecules


This page will describe unusual polymers that have unique or surprising properties. Pick one from the list on the left or view the one for this month below by clicking on the image or the link.


Poly(p-methylstyrene)


This month's polymer is an almost-ran in the commercial sense. The monomer was made using a novel and highly selective zeolite catalyst that gave almost pure p-ethyltoluene (also called p-methylethylbenzene). More efficient conditions for dehydrogenation were also developed to convert this intermediate to the styrene derivative. Significant quantities of the monomer were produced to allow large-scale sampling as a replacement for the established styrene monomer and polymer products.

The polymer made from this monomer had many advantages over polystyrene, being cheaper, having better thermal properties and allowing improved processing. It clearly illustrates how making a small change in chemical structure of a monomer can impact virtually all properties of polymer made with it. Despite its many advantages (follow the link below to find out more), it never made inroads into established markets although it is still commercially available.

This monomer and polymer offer a valuable lesson in polymer technology (and maybe in technology in general) that incremental improvements almost never lead to displacing an existing product.

Click here or on the image to find out all about it.

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