Free Radical Polymerization

Game Card

Motivated by proposing an engaging, fun and interactive manner to teach free radical  polymerization concepts, we developed a card game to be used by educators worldwide to spark interest for polymer chemistry to students. Here you will find the rule and link to purchase your card decks.




Game rules

Free Radical Polymerization

The aim is to form polymer chains with the higher molecular weight. Only terminated polymer chains are counted. The game stop when one player has empty is hand of cards.

The set is composed of two card decks each with 55 cards. The decks contain four monomers, four special cards: copolymer, termination, SFRP and CTA. On the card we have a symbol that help remember what the card does for the growing chain, the chemical structure, and the molecular weight of the molecules. Joker cards are Termination, SFRP, CTA and Copolymer.




Each player starts with 11 cards (4 players), 13 cards (3 players) or 15 cards (2 players). The remaining stack of cards is positioned on the table face down.

  • Each turn players take a card from the stack. Then either the player play a round or discard a card face up to form a second stack of cards.

  • A player can use a maximum of three cards per round.

  • Each round a player can either play with the regular cards or use a joker card.

  • Players can use joker cards on its polymer chains or its opponent’s chain.



Single radical initiator

To start a polymer chain an initiator is needed. The game start by an initiation phase. To start a polymer chain the player must put on the table an initiator, a monomer and can add another monomer to grow the chain. Giving a maximum of three cards. This is an example with an initiator giving one radical. In one round a player start its chain with the maximum on 3 cards: initiator, monomer with value 1 (radical transfer to a monomer) and another monomer to further extend the chain.



Two radicals

If using a initiator like AIBN, one can start two polymer chains by playing three cards: one initiator and two monomers with the value of one following the rule of three cards per round. The monomers can be the same or two different monomers like in this example.




The polymer chain is then grown by adding repeat unit of the same length (1, 2, or 3 as a pair or triplet) or a series (1, 2, 3). Each round a maximum of three cards can be deposited on the table. The chain is grown by simply adding the monomer cards to the chain already started on the desk.




Terminated polymer chains cannot be modified and not taken by opponents. Two types of termination: disproportionation giving two polymer chains and combination joining the two growing polymer chains into a single polymer chain. Once a chain is terminated, the number of monomers is counted and added to the players score. The cards forming the chains are put aside. Note that two polymer chains are needed to have termination.
Termination by combination joins two polymer chains into one.




Termination by disproportion gives two polymer chains.




Chain transfer agent permits to stop the growth of a polymer chain and to start a new polymer chain without the need for an initiator. Using the CTA will terminate the growth of a chain thus securing the polymer chain from being stolen by the opponent or using the CTA to take the chain of an opponent. On the same round the new polymer chain must by started by providing a monomer with the number one. A maximum of three cards can be used to make this move.




Using TEMPO permits to terminating the growing chain but to reactivated it later on. Using TEMPO secures the polymer chains from being stolen by the opponent. TEMPO must be added as the chain is growing. Only to be used on your own chains.




The use of a copolymer card permits to change the monomer used to grow the chain. When using the copolymer card, one must add another monomer to indicate the new monomer to be used to continue to grow the chain. Can be used on one’s own chain or on your opponent chain, thus bringing the chain to your side of the table. But this polymer chain is not terminated and can be taken back at the next round.




The game ends when one player has emptied his hand.
Once the game is finished each player can calculate the length of the polymer chains.
Either by using the number of monomers added to the polymer chains, or by calculating the average molecular weight, weighted average molecular weight and polydispersity index (PDI). The player having the higher Mn and lower PDI has won using the following formulas.

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