noun, plural: depolymerizations
The act of process of breaking down a polymer into smaller units or monomers
Depolymerization is the process or act of breaking down a polymer into its monomeric components. It is the opposite of polymerization, which is the act or process where monomers join together to form a polymer.
The tendency of a polymer to revert into monomeric constituents is associated with its ceiling temperature. A polymer at its ceiling temperature indicates that the rate of polymerization is equal to the rate of depolymerization. Polymers when exposed to high temperatures go through significant chemical changes. One of these changes is the breaking of the bonds that link its monomeric constituents. The breakage of bonds may occur at random positions or at the ends of a chain. The depolymerization process wherein monomers are released from the ends of a polymeric chain is referred to as end-chain depolymerization.
Example of a biological depolymerization is the digestion of food. Macromolecules in food such as carbohydrates and proteins are degraded into simpler forms. The process is often facilitated by the catalytic action of various enzymes. For example, the amylase in the saliva degrades polysaccharide starch into maltose. Maltose (a disaccharide) is further degraded into glucose units through the action of the enzyme maltase.
- depolymerize (verb, to undergo or subject to depolymerization)