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Amazing Polymers

Matter can exist in three possible states: solid, liquid and gas. A solid is rigid and retains its shape. A liquid is fluid, has a definite volume, and will take the shape of its container. A gas fills a space, so its volume will be the same as the volume of its container. Often the state of matter is determined by temperature. For example, water is a liquid, that freezes to become a solid (ice), or can be heated to become a gas (steam). Some substances have properties or both a liquid and a solid.

Trivia Questions

  1. What state is often called the forth state of matter?
  2. What are some examples of colloids in the world around you?

Find the answers to these kids science questions.

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Amazing Polymers

In the flubber experiment, borax starts out as a solid but creates a mixture with the glue and water. The glue is also a liquid. When they are combined, they create a colloid polymer.

diagram of a polymer colloidA colloid is a mixture where the particles are too large to dissolve but small enough to remain suspended in the liquid. A polymer is a long chain of molecules that look something like strands of cooked spaghetti. With a polymer colloid, the suspended particles are long polymer strands.

 

diagram of a polymer colloid with linksIf the polymer chains slide past each other easily, then the substance acts like a liquid, because the molecules flow. If the molecules hook together at a few places along the strand, then the substance behaves like a rubbery solid. Borax is responsible for hooking the glue's polymer molecules together to form the putty-like material (picture 2 shows the borax linking the long polymer glue chains).

When you stretch the putty, it stretches without breaking, but can be "snapped off" cleanly. It bounces higher than a rubber ball, with a rebound of 80%. If you hit it with a hammer, it keeps its shape, but pushing it with light pressure flattens it easily.

If you just let the putty sit or squish it with your fingers, the molecules slide over each other and the material flows. When you drop it like a rubber ball, the impact tries to make the molecules move past each other very fast. It doesn't work. They're too tangled.

Jello is also made of long flexible molecules tangled up (with a lot of water in between). But Jello molecules are attached to one another. They can't move past each other at all, so Jello won't flow no matter how slowly you squish it. All that happens eventually is that the molecules or the junctions break, or crumble. Give it a try!

Word Definitions

  • Colloid - solid particles which will not settle out of a mixture.
  • Polymer - a long chain of molecules that look something like strands of cooked spaghetti.
  • Mixture - two different types of molecules that are currently blended, but could be separated.

Trivia Answers

  1. What state is often called the forth state of matter?
    At very high temperatures, matter becomes plasma.
  2. What are some examples of colloids in the world around you?
    fog, mayonnaise, jello and meringue

Interesting Website for kids science on polymers

Science Experiments

Try this flubber experiment.



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