Today was polymer day in Science Camp.
We talked about what polymers are. We spent a fair amount of time talking about plastics.
Try this exercise. Look around you. Any plastics around you? Yeah, I thought so. Plastics define our modern society. Plastics make our modern way of life possible. Identify a few things that contain plastic. If plastics did not exist, what would those items be made of? Or, could they exist at all?
Think of music. Only in recent years has it become possible to store music without some sort of media. CD? Plastic. Compact cassette tape? Plastic. Records? Plastic. etc...
OK, so the point was to illustrate the importance of polymers in modern society
Then we headed off to lab.
In lab we made plexiglass (polymethyl methacrylate). In a doomed glass test tube, about 2 mL of methyl methacrylate is mixed with 6-8 drops of tert butylperoxybenzoate. The tube is stoppered and placed in a 55° C oven overnight. Once polymerization occurs, it's smashy smashy on the test tube to get the bullet-shaped plexiglass out.
Next, we made some nylon by layering a cyclohexane solution of adipoyl chloride on top of an aqueous solution of hexamethylenediamine. With a hooked wire, the nylon is pulled from the solution in a long strand. The strand is washed and dried.
Finally, the classic Elmer's glue, water and borax glop. Since the first two reactions require very careful lab technique due to the potentially dangerous nature of the reactants, it is nice to do something the students can literally get their hands on.
To end the day, we played a round of LMNTO. The winner won a 250 mL beaker (never used).
Tomorrow, we put their DNA (biopolymer) into a vial.