What is the macromolecule


Excerpt from the structure of cellulose, a natural polymer macromolecule

or for a non-polymeric, very large molecule (e.g. antibiotics or many marine substances)


Maitotxin-1, "MTX", C164H256Na2O68S2Na, with a molecular weight of 3425.86u is not only one of the most toxic substances there is (LD50: approx. 50ng / kg body weight), but also probably the largest known macromolecule - which is not a polymer!

From a molecular mass of ~ 1000u one speaks of a macromolecule (u is the abbreviation for the atomic mass unit unit =unified atomic mass unit, the numerical value corresponds to the molar mass in the unit $ \ frac {g} {mol} $).

Macromolecules play an extremely important role in nature, for example as starch, in enzymes or as genetic material, the DNA. They are (perhaps precisely because of this) the subject of intensive research and can generally be divided into artificially (synthetically) produced and naturally occurring ones. Accordingly, these macromolecules are called

a) plastic


b) Natural substance

designated. Names like nylon or PVC are certainly well known. "Plastics and elastics" also describe most plastics very well.

Even if it sounds unusual, an M. does not have to be based on carbon and therefore classified as organic, there are also inorganic M., which - however - still play a rather subordinate role. For example, the polyphosphazenes are one of the most extensive classes of synthetic inorganic macromolecules.

Polyphosphazene - basic element, the radicals can be inorganic, organic or organometallic groups

Around 300 different polymers of this type have already been synthesized, new ones are being added all the time, but many of them resemble less “plastic” in their properties than much more glass!

The two large groups of biopolymers (natural substances) and synthetic polymers (plastics) are discussed in detail as separate modules in this course. Technical biopolymers, bioplastics or biopolymer materials, which are to be regarded as synthetic biopolymers with material properties, also represent a steadily growing group. Unfortunately, a uniform definition for them has not yet been established.