A brief guide to polymer characterization: structure (IUPAC technical report)

Paul D. Topham*, Raymond J. Boucher, Taihyun Chang, Miroslava Dušková Smrčková, Wesley S. Farrell, Wenbing Hu, Jiasong He, Michael Hess, Helena J. Hutchins-Crawford, Daniel J. Keddie, Peter E. Mallon, Jan Merna, Natalie Stingelin, Adriana Šturcová, Jiří Vohlídal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To bolster the series of Brief Guides released by International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), here we introduce the first Brief Guide to Polymer Characterization. This article provides a concise overview of characterization methods for teachers, students, non-specialists, and newcomers to polymer science as well as being a useful manual for researchers and technicians. Unlike pure low molar mass chemical substances, polymers are not composed of identical molecules. The macromolecules which comprise a single polymer sample vary from one another, primarily in terms of size and shape, but often also in the arrangement or positioning of atoms within macromolecules (e.g., chain branching, isomerism, etc.). Polymer properties are often drastically different from those of other substances and their characterization relies on specialist equipment and/or common equipment used in a specialized way (e.g., particular sample preparation or data analysis). This Brief Guide focuses uniquely on the structural characterization (i.e., analyzing the molecular and multi-molecular aspects) of polymers. The complex nature of the structural variables possible in macromolecular materials often presents a challenge with regard to the detailed structural characterization of polymers. This Brief Guide provides a useful starting point to direct the reader to the most commonly used and useful techniques to characterize these structural variables.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1121-1126
JournalPure and Applied Chemistry
Issue number10
Early online date16 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 IUPAC & De Gruyter. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For more information, please visit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

Research funding: This work was prepared under project 2015-049-1-400 of IUPAC, and this paper also acknowledges IUPAC project 2017-005-3-500.


  • Analytical chemistry
  • analytical techniques
  • macromolecules
  • physical chemistry
  • polymers
  • polymer characterization


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