Macromolecule Definition and Examples

What Exactly Is a Macromolecule?

Polypropylene is an example of a macromolecule made up of propylene subunits.
Polypropylene is an example of a macromolecule made up of propylene subunits. LAGUNA DESIGN / Getty Images

In chemistry and biology, a macromolecule is defined as a molecule with a very large number of atoms. Macromolecules typically have more than 100 component atoms. Macromolecules exhibit very different properties from smaller molecules, including their subunits, when applicable.

In contrast, a micromolecule is a molecule which has a small size and molecular weight.

The term macromolecule was coined by Nobel laureate Hermann Staudinger in the 1920s.

At the time, the term "polymer" had a different meaning than it does today, or else it might have become the preferred word.

Macromolecule Examples

Most polymers are macromolecules and many biochemical molecules are macromolecules. Polymers consist of subunits, called mers, that are covalently linked to form larger structures. Proteins, DNA, RNA, and plastics are all macromolecules. Many carbohydrates and lipids are macromolecules. Carbon nanotubes are an example of a macromolecule that is not a biological material.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Macromolecule Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Aug. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/definition-of-macromolecule-605324. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, August 17). Macromolecule Definition and Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-macromolecule-605324 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Macromolecule Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-macromolecule-605324 (accessed January 16, 2018).