Studies & Degrees in Polymer Technology
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The word “polymer” has, through the years, become synonymous with the word “plastic.” Polymer, however, actually refers to a class of materials that can be natural and synthetic and have different properties but share the same molecular composition. Natural polymers such as amber, shellac, cellulose, and natural rubber have existed even before human history and have been used for many centuries. Proteins and nucleic acid are also considered natural polymers; they are called bio-polymers and are a crucial part in many biological processes. Neoprene, nylon, synthetic rubber, PVC, polystyrene, polyethylene, silicone, and polyacrylonitrile are but a few examples of synthetic polymers often used as materials in manufacturing products such as pipes.
The history of the development of polymer started in 1811 with Henri Braconnot’s works in derivative cellulose compounds. Braconnot’s works were the first significant works in polymer science. Vulcanization later came in the 19th century. This process of improving natural rubber signaled the popularization of semi-synthetic polymers. It was not until the 1970 however that the first completely synthetic polymer, Bakelite, was created. Leo Baekeland successfully created this polymer with the reaction of phenol and formaldehyde exposed in controlled temperature and pressure. Bakelite was introduced publicly in 1909. With the development of other synthetic polymers such as nylon, Teflon, silicone, and polyethylene, the polymer industry began to flourish. Synthetic polymers were mass produced and created using scaled organic techniques. These polymers are often used as adhesives, lubricants, and components for making products such as toys, pipes, and even aircrafts. They are also used in many biomedical applications like implantable devices and controlled drug delivery. Polymers are also used as materials for making semiconductors, microprocessors, and organic light-emitting diodes used for electronic displays.
With the aforementioned purposes of both natural and synthetic polymers, it is no surprise that Polymer Technology is a popular program among those who are interested in joining the manufacturing industry, those who already have a background in science but want to specialize in plastic and polymer studies, and for those who are already in the Polymer Industry but want to gain additional theoretical and technical knowledge. Upon taking this program, students will gain the necessary expertise in polymers such as plastics, rubbers, and composites. They will learn about the structural and chemical properties of polymers, the different techniques in processing plastics, and about rheology or the study of deformation and flow of matter. They will also learn about adhesive bonding, and rubber compounding and processing. Polymer Technology, however, is often offered as a post-graduate program and students are required to have either a degree or equivalent subjects in related science or engineering. Students can also take this program if they have enough relevant industrial experience as an alternative for academic qualifications.
There are many career opportunities that are available for students who successfully finished this program. These are some of the job opportunities that require technical knowledge in polymers: materials & surface science research, polymer chemist, biomedical engineer, device scientist, and research scientist—photovoltaics.