Polymers: Sources, Origins & Properties

Test yourself

Sources, Origins, and Properties

Plastics can be made from different recourses and methods. Chemicals and compounds can be added to polymers to change the properties of plastic.

Illustrative background for What is plastic made from?Illustrative background for What is plastic made from? ?? "content

What is plastic made from?

  • Plastics can be made from petrochemical resources such as oil.
  • Some plastics are made from natural materials such as rubber.
  • Newer bioplastics such as corn can be grown.
    • Grown bioplastics are better for the environment because they biodegrade relatively quickly.
Illustrative background for RefiningIllustrative background for Refining ?? "content


  • Refining is the process of turning crude oil into a usable material.
    • This is where the oil is heated up so the different materials separate out in a tank.
  • Refining produces petrol, gases, oil, and polymers.
Illustrative background for CrackingIllustrative background for Cracking ?? "content


  • Cracking turns large hydrocarbon molecules into smaller ones.
    • Large hydrocarbon molecules aren’t good for plastics so making them smaller makes them usable.
  • Heat and pressure break the large molecule down.
    • A catalyst can also be used to break the molecule down.
Illustrative background for AdditivesIllustrative background for Additives ?? "content


  • Chemicals and compounds can be added to the polymers to change their properties.
    • Pigments allow the plastic to be different colours.
    • Plasticisers make the plastic more flexible and bendy.
    • Fragrances can be added to make the polymers smell nicer.
    • Stabilisers can be added to make the plastic resistant to UV rays which makes the plastic fade.
Illustrative background for Biodegradable plasticIllustrative background for Biodegradable plastic ?? "content

Biodegradable plastic

  • Biodegradable plastics are newer plastics that are better for the environment.
    • Examples of biodegradable plastics include PLA for 3D printing and PHB used in water bottles.
  • Biodegradable plastics come from corn and starch-based plants.
  • Biodegradable plastics fully biodegrade if composted which means they can't be recycled.

Jump to other topics

1Core Technical Principles

2Paper & Board: Specialist Technical Principles

3Timber: Specialist Technical Principles

4Metal: Specialist Technical Principles

5Polymers: Specialist Technical Principles

6Textiles: Specialist Technical Principles

7Designing & Making Principles

Go student ad image

Unlock your full potential with GoStudent tutoring

  • Affordable 1:1 tutoring from the comfort of your home

  • Tutors are matched to your specific learning needs

  • 30+ school subjects covered

Book a free trial lesson