DOI: 10.1515/pac-2022-0602 ISSN:

A brief guide to polymer characterization: structure (IUPAC technical report)

Paul D. Topham, Raymond J. Boucher, Taihyun Chang, Miroslava Dušková Smrčková, Wesley S. Farrell, Jiasong He, Michael Hess, Wenbing Hu, Helena J. Hutchins-Crawford, Daniel J. Keddie, Peter E. Mallon, Jan Merna, Natalie Stingelin, Adriana Šturcová, Jiří Vohlídal
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


To bolster the series of Brief Guides released by International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), here we introduce the first Brief Guide to Polymer Characterization. This article provides a concise overview of characterization methods for teachers, students, non-specialists, and newcomers to polymer science as well as being a useful manual for researchers and technicians. Unlike pure low molar mass chemical substances, polymers are not composed of identical molecules. The macromolecules which comprise a single polymer sample vary from one another, primarily in terms of size and shape, but often also in the arrangement or positioning of atoms within macromolecules (e.g., chain branching, isomerism, etc.). Polymer properties are often drastically different from those of other substances and their characterization relies on specialist equipment and/or common equipment used in a specialized way (e.g., particular sample preparation or data analysis). This Brief Guide focuses uniquely on the structural characterization (i.e., analyzing the molecular and multi-molecular aspects) of polymers. The complex nature of the structural variables possible in macromolecular materials often presents a challenge with regard to the detailed structural characterization of polymers. This Brief Guide provides a useful starting point to direct the reader to the most commonly used and useful techniques to characterize these structural variables.

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