Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

2018 Edition
| Editors: William M. White

Biopolymers and Macromolecules

  • Markus KleberEmail author
  • Patrick Reardon
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39312-4_172


A polymer is “a chemical compound or mixture of compounds formed by polymerization and consisting essentially of repeating structural units” (Merriam-Webster 2017). As the original meaning of the term polymer does not include any reference to molecular size, Staudinger and Fritschi (1922) introduced the word macromolecule to describe large covalently bonded organic chain molecules containing more than 103 atoms. By convention, the term macromolecule is reserved for organic molecules; it does not cover inorganic geopolymers such as obsidian. The official definition (IUPAC 2006) of the term macromolecule regards a molecule as having a high relative molecular mass if the addition or removal of one or a few of the units has a negligible effect on the molecular properties. Also, when a molecule has a high molecular mass and comprises the multiple repetitions of units derived from molecules of low relative molecular mass, it may be described as either macromolecular or polymeric. S...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Crop and Soil ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Nuclear Magnetic Resonance FacilityOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA