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Polymer Investigation (2 Favorites)

LAB in Physical Properties, Polymers, Mixture, Scientific Method. Last updated July 16, 2018.


Summary

In this lab, students will follow the procedure for creating a polymer, flubber, which will be similar in consistency to Silly Putty. Students will then design an experiment to test a physical property of the flubber that they have created using the scientific method.

Grade Level

Elementary and middle school

NGSS Standards

  • MS-ETS1-2: Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well the meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 2-PS1-1: Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.
  • 3-5-ETS1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests to which the variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
  • K-2-ETS1-3: Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

Objectives

By the end of this lab, students should be able to

  • Understand what makes a substance a polymer.
  • Identify various examples of physical properties.
  • Design a controlled experiment, following the outline of the scientific method.

Chemistry Topics

This lab supports students’ understanding of

  • Polymers
  • Mixtures
  • Physical Properties
  • Experimental Design
  • Scientific Method

Time

Teacher Preparation: 20 minutes
Lesson
: 1-1.5 hours

Materials

Per lab group to create flubber

  • Lab polymerinvestigation materialsMixture A:
    • Plastic Cup or bowl
    • ¼ or 60ml cup warm water
    • 1/3 cup or 80ml of white glue (almost an entire standard bottle)
    • 1-2 drop of food coloring
    • Plastic Spoon
  • Mixture B:
    • Plastic Cup or bowl
    • 1 teaspoon or 5ml of Borax Powder
    • 3 tablespoons or 40ml of warm water
    • Plastic spoon
    • 1 Ziploc® bag for storage
  • Optional (for experimental design portion):
    • Rulers, meter sticks, tape measures
    • Freezer or ice
    • Stop watch/timer
    • Electronic scale

Safety

  • Always wear safety goggles when handling chemicals in the lab.
  • Students should wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • When students complete the lab, instruct them how to clean up their materials and dispose of any chemicals.
  • Do not allow students to heat the flubber, it will quickly become very sticky, like glue and will burn the skin when touched.

Teacher Notes

  • Students should be placed in pairs for this lab.
  • The amount of flubber produced from following the procedures should be plenty to use for each lab pair. The flubber can even be separated into equal pieces so students can conduct multiple trials for comparison.
  • When making the flubber it is very important that the borax solution be added slowly, and stirred frequently. It should not all be added to the glue mixture at one time.
  • The flubber should not be sticky when it is completed, it just be easy to form it into a ball, break it into pieces, etc. The food coloring will not stain once the flubber is completed.
  • The stages of flubber creation are shown in the photo series below:
Polymer
  • Students may need encouragement as they plan for their experiment, some easy ideas include:
    • Will temperature effect the number of times a flubber ball bounces? (note, do not allow students to heat the flubber, only cool it)
    • Will the size of a flubber ball effect the height of its bounce?
    • Will the temperature of flubber effect how long it can hold its original shape? (note, do not allow students to heat the flubber, only cool it)
  • When students create a hypothesis, encourage them to use the structure: If… then… because…. This requires students to make a prediction, but also pushes them to justify their thoughts with a reason for their prediction.  

For the Student

Background

In this lab you will make a polymer. Polymers are large molecules with interesting properties. You will have an opportunity to investigate a property of your choosing in this lab as well.

Polymers are large molecules that are built from small molecules called monomers; these monomers are like links in a large chain that forms the polymer. You see and use polymers in your everyday life. Polymers make up things like: plastic bottles, carpets, clothing and rubber.

Prelab Questions

  1. What is a physical property? Give at least three examples.
  2. What is an independent variable?
  3. What is a dependent variable?
  4. What are constants in an experiment and why are they important?

Materials

  • Optional (for experimental design portion):
    • Rulers, meter sticks, tape measures
    • Freezer or ice
    • Stop watch/timer
    • Electronic scale
  • Mixture A:
    • Plastic Cup or bowl
    • ¼ cup or 60ml warm water
    • 1/3 cup or 80ml of white glue (almost an entire standard bottle)
    • 1-2 drop of food coloring
    • Plastic Spoon

  • Mixture B:
    • Plastic Cup or bowl
    • 1 teaspoon or 5ml of Borax Powder
    • 3 tablespoons or 40ml of warm water
    • Plastic spoon
    • 1 Ziploc® bag for storage

Safety

  • Always wear safety goggles when handling chemicals in the lab.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • Follow your teacher’s instructions for cleanup of materials and disposal of any chemicals.
  • Do not heat the flubber, it will quickly become very sticky, like glue and will burn your skin when touched.

Procedure

Part 1: Polymer Creation

  1. First you will create your flubber polymer.
  2. In a plastic cup create mixture A by combining ¼ cup or 60ml of warm water, 1/3 cup or 80ml of white glue and 1-2 drops of food coloring.
  3. Using a plastic spoon, thoroughly stir the mixture until it all looks the same.
  4. Next, create mixture B: In a separate plastic cup combine 1 teaspoon or 5ml of Borax Powder and 3 tablespoons or 40ml of warm water.
  5. Using a plastic spoon, thoroughly stir the mixture until the Borax dissolves (a tiny amount may not dissolve, and that is okay).
  6. Using the plastic spoon in mixture B add a couple spoonful’s of the Borax solution to the glue, mixture A. Stir.
  7. Keep adding mixture B to mixture A slowly, and stirring after each spoonful.
  8. The flubber will begin to form, and the consistency will change as you combine the mixtures.
  9. When you have added all of Mixture B to Mixture A, it may be easier to mix them together using your hands.
  10. The final flubber should not stick to your hands.

Part 2: Experimental Design

  1. You will design a test to investigate a property of flubber. Think about some of the following properties of flubber to get started:
    1. Bouncing
    2. Stretching
    3. Holding its shape
    4. Hanging
    5. Make-up your own
  2. Decide on an independent variable first, this is water you would like to change on purpose. Record it below in the planning table.
  3. Decide on a measureable dependent variable next, this is what you will measure as the result. Record it below in the planning table.
  4. Make a list of conditions you must keep constant throughout the experiment. Record it below in the planning table.
  5. Take these items to your teacher for approval before continuing.
  6. When your design has been approved, create a hypothesis, materials list, detailed procedure, and data table in the space provided before beginning your testing.
Independent Variable
Dependent Variable
Constants
Planning

Hypothesis:

Item:

Quantity
Materials Needed

Procedures:

Data:

Analysis

  1. What were the results of your experiment? Do your results support your hypothesis?

  2. What improvements or changes could be done that would make this experiment more efficient in the future?