Reconsidering terms for mechanisms of polymer growth: the “step-growth” and “chain-growth” dilemma

The Subcommittee on Polymer Terminology (SPT, Division IV) has just published a perspective article in Polymer Chemistry outlining their concerns with basic classification of mechanisms of polymer growth. The terms “step-growth” and “chain-growth,” and a variety of related terms, are used widely by the polymer community, even though all polymers grow in a series of steps to form polymer chains. The paper details a short history of terms used for mechanisms of polymer growth, revealing the circuitous path that led to the position we are in today, where “step-growth” and “chain-growth” persist alongside the related terms “polyaddition,” which is different from “addition polymerization,” and “polycondensation,” which is different from “condensation polymerization.” (doi: 10.1039/d2py00086e; online 5 Apr 2022)


The task group surveyed dozens of textbooks on the topics of general, organic, and polymer chemistry to see which terms were used. The group found that there is no consensus among textbook authors to distinguish between these two fundamentally different mechanisms of polymer growth. This lack of clear and consistent terminology leads to confusion among practitioners of polymer science and students learning polymer science, as well as difficulties in translating these terms to other languages.

This paper does not recommend new terms. Instead, the members of SPT working on this project seek suggestions from the community on how to provide clear, simple, and consistent terms to describe the two major mechanisms of polymer growth and their subclasses. They ask that ideas, concerns, and suggestions be sent to [email protected].

See relevant project 2019-027-1-400

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