Polymer Bouncy Ball

Every child loves a good bouncy ball. Give your students an exciting chemical reaction they can make themselves! These bouncy balls are made from polymers and are safe for all ages to make and use. This recipe and procedure comes from Thought Co who made a very easy to follow guide.

Grades: 5-8

Background

Polymers are an incredibly important substance in our daily lives. Many everyday items such as water bottles, tires, textile fibers, auto parts, and glass are made from synthetic polymers. There are also polymers in nature such as wood and rubber.

Image result for polymer structure

Polymers are made of long repeating chains of molecules that are bonded together. Some polymers are able to bend and stretch, while others are tougher to stretch. Polymers can be bonded in a few ways and can have very complicated structures. They are formed by chemically linking molecules together in a large chain. Synthetic polymers are made by linking together identical molecules, while natural polymers like DNA or proteins contain different molecules within the chain.

The polymer bouncy balls are made using a chemical reaction.  The glue contains polyvinyl acetate, which cross-links and bonds to itself when mixed with the borax. The borax works as the linking agent that binds together the molecules in the glue. The cornstarch helps the new polymer to keep its structure and hold the shape.

What You’ll Need

To make these bouncy balls, you’ll need the following items:

  1. Borax
  2. Cornstarch
  3. White, blue or clear school glue
  4. Warm water
  5. Food coloring (optional)
  6. Measuring spoons
  7. Spoon or craft stick
  8. 2 small plastic cups
  9. Marker
  10. Masking tape

What to Do

You can make your own fun polymer ball with just a few easy steps!

  1. Take two plastic cups and label them with masking tape or paper. One cup should be labeled “borax” and the other cup should be labeled “ball solution.”
  2. Pour 2 tablespoons of warm water into the borax cup.
  3. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of borax into the borax cup. Stir the solution until the borax dissolves.
  4. Pour 1 tablespoon of corn starch into the borax cup. Mix the solution.
  5. (optional) Add 1-2 drops of food coloring
  6. Pour 1 tablespoon of elmer’s glue into the ball solution cup
  7. Take 1/2 teaspoon of the borax mixture and pour it into the ball solution cup. Let the solution sit for 10-15 seconds before stirring.
  8. Stir the ball cup with a spoon or craft stick until a solid forms. When it becomes more difficult to mix with a stick, take the ball out and knead it with your hands.
  9. Form a ball shape with the mixture and knead it throughly. It helps to wash your hands to get the glue off.

Now you have a polymer ball! The more you knead the ball and work it with your hands, the less sticky and more solid it becomes. Test the ball on a flat clean surface. It is recommended that you avoid carpets.

When you have finished making your ball, you can experiment with the ratios of materials in the recipe to see how it affects the texture, appearance, or bounciness of the ball. Have some fun and experiment!

Connecting Concepts (NGSS)

Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances.
Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
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