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Chemistry International
Vol. 24, No. 2
March 2002


Highlights from Pure and Applied Chemistry

Generic Source-Based Nomenclature for Polymers
(IUPAC Recommendations 2001)

by E. Maréchal and E. S. Wilks
Pure and Applied Chemistry Vol. 73, No. 9, pp. 1511-1519 (2001)

Present-day high-performance polymer materials are becoming increasingly difficult to name concisely with existing macromolecular nomenclature. Simple and practical names that refer to the monomer source (i.e., source-based nomenclature) are therefore highly desirable; thus, the rules that lead to such names need to be spelled out. That task was undertaken by an international group of experts of the former IUPAC Commission on Macromolecular Nomenclature. Their recent recommendations on generic source-based nomenclature for polymers describe an unambiguous naming system that is as rigorous as, but more practical than, structure-based nomenclature. This generic naming system complements the earlier source-based method, which in some cases leads to ambiguous names.

A generic source-based name comprises two parts:

  1. polymer class (generic) name followed by a colon;
  2. the actual or hypothetical monomer name(s) (source), always parenthesized in the case of a copolymer. (See figure for an example.)

In this document, five rules are presented and illus-trated by 20 examples; the formula, the structure-based name, the source-based name, and the generic source-based name of the polymer are given for each example.

Structure-based names:
I. poly(1-oxiranylethylene)
II. poly[(oxy(1-vinylethylene)]

Source-based name:
I and II have the same source-based name: poly(vinyloxirane).

Generic source-based names
I. polyalkylene:vinyloxirane
II. polyether:vinyloxirane

In some cases, only generic source-based nomenclature gives unambiguous names, for example, when a polymer has more than one name or when it is obtained through a series of intermediate structures. The rules concern mostly polymers with one or more types of functional groups or heterocyclic systems in the main chain, but to some extent they are applicable also to polymers with side-groups, carbon-chain polymers such as vinyl or diene polymers, spiro and cyclic polymers, and networks.






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