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Polymer Super Balls

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Polymers have many useful properties.  White glue is a polymer that adheres strongly to substances it dries on.  We can perform some cool chemistry to change glue to a polymer you can really have a ball with! 

Materials:

 

  • Half a glass of water
  • Plastic Spoon
  • 3 spoonfuls of borax (available on the laundry aisle of supermarkets, a major brand is “20 Mule Team Borax
  • White Glue, such as Elmer’s, or woodworking glue (it's neat if you have both kinds, because they make slightly different superballs)

 

Procedure

 

  1. Add the borax to the water and stir until dissolved. 
  2. While continuously stirring the borax solution, drizzle glue into the solution.  A stringy, rubbery substance will form in the cup and wind round the spoon. 
  3. Quickly gather up a glob of the strings and form into a ball in the palm of your hand.   Squeeze the water out of it.  Try to get it as round as possible. 
  4. Now, drop the ball on the table and see it bounce.  Bounce it on the floor.  Now make a few more and see which one bounces best.

THE SCIENCE:

The glue is composed of polymer chains.  The borax molecules combine with the polymer glue molecules, further linking them together into a rubbery, bouncy material.

kids with polymer superballs.
These kids used chemistry to convert glue into superballs. Cool.

Science Guy demonstrating bouncing polymer balls
Bill Y the Science Guy bounces a Polymer Superball

In this project you use CHEMISTRY to change the properties of a substance.  Combining ordinary glue with borax makes a whole new material with a whole different look and feel.   A CHEMIST is a scientist who studies materials and their properties.  CHEMISTS combine different things together to create new materials with different properties. 

 

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