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The Properties of Polymers

Tim Royappa

Polymer Handbook, 4th ed. J. Brandrup, E. H. Immergut and E. A. Grulke, eds. 769 pp. John Wiley and Sons, 1999. $350.

There is not a polymer scientist alive, I wager, who has not at one point or another had to refer to the Polymer Handbook. This venerable compendium of polymer-related information, now in its fourth edition and its fourth decade, is absolutely indispensable to anyone with a serious interest in polymer chemistry and physics. The compilers of this enormous mountain of polymer data have brought on board some new editors and associate editors, and the results of their labors are laudable.

The stated focus of the book is on the fundamental properties of polymers, not applied information such as polymer processing, polymer manufacture and polymer engineering data. I would hasten to add that this volume will also be of great utility to industrial polymer scientists, as the previous editions certainly were, because it contains much information on commercial plastics. In fact, an entire section of the book lists the physical constants of the most important commodity plastics and of cellulose, the most abundant polymer on the planet. Nearly one-fifth of the contributors to this book are industrial personnel, and their input is a much-valued addition to the data in this compilation.

Those needing to look up polymer information know that the nomenclature of polymers can be an enormous hurdle to finding information. Even a simple substance such as –(–CH2CH2O–)x– can be called variously poly(ethylene oxide), poly(ethylene glycol) or perhaps even poly(oxirane), where the phrase in parentheses refers to the monomer from which the polymer is synthesized. The nomenclature of polymers in the Handbook has been systematized as in previous editions, which can take some getting used to. The Handbook lists the polymer mentioned above, for example, as poly(oxyethylene). The common plastic nylon 6,6 is called polyamide 6,6, and other polymers' names are also likely to be altered. Once mastered, the nomenclature ceases to be an impediment to the use of the Handbook.

The Handbook purports to contain revisions focused on data generated in roughly the past decade, but there are some notable oversights. The burgeoning area of conducting polymers is given short shrift, as are gradient polymers. However, other recent areas of research such as dendrimers and hyperbranched polymers are covered well. Polymers of biological importance such as poly(amino acids) and oligopeptides are likewise given suitable attention. Notwithstanding the minor faults listed here, the new edition of the Polymer Handbook is a monumental work that will certainly be of great help to all polymer scientists for years to come. I consider this volume a necessary reference text for anyone working with polymers, and I strongly recommend it to science librarians everywhere.—Tim Royappa, Chemistry, University of West Florida

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