Atactic

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In atactic macromolecules every substituent belonging to a repeating unit is placed randomly at either side of the backbone. This form of tacticity is often observed for polymers obtained by free radical polymerization.

Glass formation

Atactic polymers are technologically very important. A good example is polystyrene (PS). If a special catalyst is used in its synthesis it is possible to obtain the syndiotactic version of this polymer, but most industrial polystyrene produced is atactic. The two materials have very different properties because the irregular structure of the atactic version makes it impossible for the polymer chains to stack in a regular fashion. The result is that whereas syndiotactic PS is a semicrystalline material, the more common atactic version cannot crystallize and forms a glass instead. This example is quite general in that many polymers of economic importance are atactic glass formers.



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