Caught In a Sticky Situation

Today the 7th graders at CHA had a really fun chemistry lesson on polymers. They learned that polymers affect our daily lives since polymers include common foods such as starches (pasta, potatoes) and proteins, plastics, fabrics both natural (cotton, wool) and manufactured (rayon, nylon). But exactly what is a polymer, you might ask?  Polymers are a type of molecule made of linked chains of individual units, or monomers. Students saw how monomers form chains to create polymers, and that chains of polymers can be lengthened or cross-linked together to give them different properties. After understanding that polymers are all around us, students were then able to make some polymers of their own.

As an experiment we used Borax detergent to cross-link polymer chains of white glue together. The result was immediate and dramatic! The thin, slimy, sticky glue instantly changed into a thick, rubbery, dry substance that could be stretched, formed into a ball, broken sharply apart, and bounced. Similar to Silly Putty. We call this material “Glubber,” and it is easy and safe to make at home under adult supervision.

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