Current usage guidance for (116 posts)

For questions relating to the structures, properties, production methods and potential hazards of polymer materials commonly known as plastics

Current usage guidance for (369 posts)

For questions about synthetic or natural polymers, their chemical or physical properties, and their synthesis, etc.

(36 posts with both)

The tags appear substantially redundant in their usage. Thus it seems logical to me that they do not need to coexist, and we could merge the wiki for into and make a synonym for . Thoughts?


I have tried that a while ago and even after reworking it, it got no momentum. And there still is which also may include plastics and polymers.

I'm quoting thomij from that post:

However, there are key differences in how they are defined scientifically.

Plastics are defined based on their material properties - how do they respond to an applied stress?

Polymers are defined based on their molecular structure - how are the atoms that make them up connected?

The usage probably does not reflect that currently, but just because there is a sloppy usage, it does not justify creating tag synonyms. It would be better creating more defined usage guidelines, and applying the tags according to these stricter.

For now I disagree with the proposal.

  • $\begingroup$ I would argue that materials is the broader field to be used with polymers, glass, ceramics, and metals tags and sometimes semiconductor. Similar to how analytical-chemistry should be used with ftir $\endgroup$ – A.K. Apr 23 '19 at 19:39

I agree that is redundant and is sufficient on its own. On the other hand, I would propose a "high-molecular-weight-compounds" (or simply "high-molecular-compounds", but it sounds ambiguously) tag.

I realize that tagspace is essentially a flatland, but "high-molecular-weight-compounds" seems more significant hierarchically and can cover not only polymers, but also biopolymers, DNA–RNA, some colloidal particles and polyoxometalates.

  • $\begingroup$ I think "colloidal materials" or similar would be a good tag (although somewhat old-fashioned word) but "high MW..." is too ambiguous or even inaccurate - would you call a vesicle a high MW compound? $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 17 '19 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ Vesicle — no, but a polymer blob is a HMWC all right. That's why I put "some" before "colloidal particles":) $\endgroup$ – andselisk Mar 17 '19 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I missed that "some". But is "high-MW compound" better than colloid? Why choose one over the other (considering semantics - not exact choice of words, since "colloid" perhaps has better synonyms)? Perhaps "soft materials" or "mesoscopic materials" or other tag might be better. $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 17 '19 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ Personally I like high MW compounds because it is clear that it refers to single molecules, but it then requires definition of a boundary with "low MW" compounds, introducing the ambiguity with respect to colloid and soft materials etc. Basically you want to generate a Venn diagram with the tags you attach to a post, and the less tags you need the better. $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 17 '19 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ I never said that one tag is better or worse, I only suggested HMWC as probably the broadest one to cover as many neighboring fields as possible (yes, my answer is semi-offtopic, I realize that). I see "high-molecular-weight-compounds" relates to "polymers" like, say, "physical-chemistry" to "physical-organic-chemistry" or "electrochemistry": a larger sub-group. And yes, Venn diagram would be a bliss:) $\endgroup$ – andselisk Mar 17 '19 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ It's on topic because the question is why get rid of "plastics", and therefore "why did that tag exist in the first place?" Leading to the question of redundancy, tag Venn diagrams etc :) $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 17 '19 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ There is of course "macromolecules" - there's even an ACS journal for that. But then "biopolymers" and just "polymers" would coexist within that group. $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 17 '19 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ "Macromolecules" (MM) is a good one, maybe you could add this as a suggestion to your answer? Basically similar to HMWC, but shorter. $\endgroup$ – andselisk Mar 17 '19 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ We have a colloids tag already. I agree that macro-molecule could be a tag, but high-molecular weight-molecule is not intuitive and polymers are more that just a molecular weight. They have distinct mechanical behaviors that cannot be lumped into macro-molecules. $\endgroup$ – A.K. Mar 17 '19 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say it suffices to define a polymer as a molecule containing a large number of repeating (monomeric) subunits, without reference to physicochemical properties (unlike "colloid"), although they do have those properties. But more importantly (or perhaps utterly unimportantly) I do think they are lumpable into macromolecules. I'll go check what the ACS has to say on this... $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 17 '19 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ Macromolecules journal scope: "Macromolecules publishes original research on all fundamental aspects of macromolecular science including synthesis, polymerization mechanisms and kinetics, chemical modification, solution/melt/solid-state characteristics, and surface properties of organic, inorganic, and naturally occurring polymers. The papers showcase innovative concepts, experimental methods/observations, and theoretical approaches" $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 17 '19 at 20:59

I completely agree with the suggestion. "Plastic" is a popular synonym for polymer but actually describes a specific behavior. One good thing is that the word "plastic" is typically associated with synthetic polymers and allows distinction from biopolymers, which form a very broad class of their own (and perhaps deserve their own tag?)

Aside: other useful terms that encompass "polymer" and may deserve their own tag are "macromolecules" and "colloid". "Colloid" in particular captures explicitly a connection between spatial dimension and physicochemical behavior which is lacking in "polymer". "Colloid" overlaps with "nanotechnology" but is largely distinct. It is however a somewhat old-fashioned term. Alternatives include "mesoscopic materials" and "soft matter" but these are less well known.

  • $\begingroup$ as far as bio polymers we have DNA-RNA and protien tags already. what other subcategory would you propose? $\endgroup$ – A.K. Mar 16 '19 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @A.K. Well, I can think of two common types of polymers: synthetic polymers and "biopolymers". The latter captures nucleic acids, proteins, plus carb-based polymers such as cellulose (most common natural polymer), amylose/pectin (starch), chitin, etc. It is more general. So if I were to propose a category: "biopolymer". $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 16 '19 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Colloids can 1.) be made of network solids and 2.) are physically defined thus for those reasons colloid is not accetable replacement for polymer. $\endgroup$ – A.K. Mar 18 '19 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ I think the problem with macromolecule with polymer as a synonym is 1.) it sounds like a molecular focus only ignoring the special mechanical properties of polymers (polymer is a class of materials, macro-molecules is not) and 2.) it is not intuitive for the average user to search macromolecule instead of polymer. $\endgroup$ – A.K. Mar 18 '19 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ @A.K. the wikipedia entry on macromolecule is worth a read. I never meant really to suggest macromolecule as an alternative or synonym to polymer, but rather as a word that describes large molecules including polymers, as an alternative to andselisk's suggestion of high MW molecules. I agree though that as a tag the word macromolecule might not be heavily used. I do like "biomolecule". $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Mar 20 '19 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ I can see that a polymer from a molecular prospective is technically correct to call a macromolecule. And yes macromolecule could be a tag, I just don't know how many questions if any bring up the subject at this time. As far a biomolecule goes I would consider it unnecessary since we have tags for lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates. $\endgroup$ – A.K. Mar 20 '19 at 17:24

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