Try this at home: Make your own polymer bouncy balls


polymerballsWant to bring a little science into the home? For young (and young-at-heart) scientists, here is a simple science experiment developed by McGill science students as part of the WOW Lab project.

If you have kids (or were ever once a kid yourself) you are likely familiar with the super-bouncy balls sold in toy stores, and handed out in party favor bags. Specifically, you know how much fun they are to play with.

They’re also fun to make. Adding vinegar to a spoonful of gooey liquid latex (found at craft stores, or online) results in a squishy, bouncy, ball, the kind kids and kids  buy at a toy store. Food colouring completes the look on these home-made toys:

What you need:

Liquid latex
Food colouring
Paper towels
Disposable cups
Coffee stirrers or spoon

What to do:

1)    Put on the gloves.
2)    Pour 1 tbsp of liquid latex, 1 tbsp vinegar, and a few drops of food colouring into a cup.
3)    Stir until it starts to turn into a sticky blob.
4)    Continue to to shape the blob rolling it in the palms of your hands. Be careful not to squirt any of the liquid that might be trapped inside, instead gently puncture the blob to let it out.
5)    Once the blob has hardened into a ball, place it on a paper towel, and let dry.
6)    Test it out!

Why it works:

The liquid latex is an emulsion of polymer micro-particles. Ammonia (or a similar preservative) keeps the latex in its gooey, malleable form. Add the vinegar, and the preservative is neutralized, leaving the polymer to take on whatever shape you make it.

At the McGill WOW Lab, student researchers created over 40 “blueprints” for hands-on science activities, specially designed to enhance the K-12 Canadian science curriculum. For more more projects – and more detailed instructions for this one – check out the WOW Lab website.

[Link to video]


bouncy ball 2

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