Friday, November 23, 2012

Help I Am Melting!!!!!

First up Science in a Van is not melting anything.  Alan is just being dramatic again!  Here is another great Material World experiment.

In this experiment you will learn lots about acetone.  The properties of this material is its rapid rate of evaporation, its really flammable, it has a high solvency and a low boiling point.  It’s used in everyday life – it’s in nail polish remover amongst other things.
You will need:

  • Acetone (from your local pharmacy)
  • Polystyrene (old cups or packing chips are great)
  • 2 Jars
  • Water
  • 2 spoons or tongs 
  • Permanent marker / Acrylic paints

Now get mixing!

  1. Pour some acetone into a jar (a little goes a long way). Acetone is a solvent and can irritate so be careful when using it. Read the label carefully first
  2. Now place your polystyrene into the acetone
  3. Once it has changed into a ‘goo’, scoop it out with the tongs/spoons
  4. Now rinse it in the jar of water (or under a tap)
  5. Mould it into a shape of your choice

In this experiment the acetone is the solvent, since it dissolves the polystyrene. The polystyrene is the solute.  The polystyrene softens and weakens and the air in the polystyrene is released.
The polystyrene will harden again as the acetone is rinsed off. For good sculpting it is good to dissolve the polystyrene then dip in and out of the water, sculpt, then dip and rinse it in water thoroughly. You can paint your creations with acrylic paint or permanent markers.

What you can make ...
Alan is always surprised how little material that is left at the end.  Polystyrene has a lot of air in it!  It can be fun to take a whole bag of polystyrene balls and a cup of acetone and see how much it changes.  As the polystyrene dissolves there are some hazardous fumes released.  So it’s best to experiment in a well-ventilated room or outside.

So what to make?  Jewellery, key chains or Christmas decorations? Science in a Van would love to see what you get up to so and pictures would be great.


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