So chemistry made the front of The Sunday Times – as it was big news that the five pound note is changing from paper to polymer. The polymer in particular is biaxailly oriented polypropylene (BOPP) and the great thing about it is any GCSE student could draw its structure ( the biaxially oriented refers to a method of extrusion during production). The old A level syllabus went further and looked at the different types of polymer formed, both crystalline (isotactic and synotactic) and amorphous (atactic), due to the presence of stereocentres. Polypropene (polypropylene) is an addition polymer and is produced using a Ziegler-Natta catalyst ( titanium chloride with a co catalyst of triethylaluminium). Karl Ziegler and Guilio Natta were awarded the 1963 Nobel prize for their contribution to polymer chemistry.
The Bank of England claim that polymer banknotes are harder to counterfeit, more durable and cleaner than paper banknotes. But not everyone is happy about this change – apparently the notes are 15% smaller and there may be issues with ATM machines, some estimating the change may cost up to £236 million. But my concern, what about burning the money – if we change from paper to polymer will the alcohol/water just run off not allowing for that good old chemistry party trick !