Friday, November 12, 2010

Science Projects & Models

Making homemade plastic

Yep, we're surrounded by plastic.  Sit right there and look around the room and see if you can spot something made of plastic.  See, I told you so. The keys on your keyboard are made of plastic.  The mouse you've got your hand resting on is made of plastic.   Even parts of the monitor you're looking at right now is made of plastic (yikes... Reeko,  I don't know how you know all these things but stop it - it's giving me the creeps).
These plastics can be either natural plastics which are made of materials such as wax or natural rubber, or they can be synthetic plastics which are made from polyethylene or nylon.  Most plastic is made of petroleum oil.  The type of plastic we're fixing to make is of the natural type.
  1. Have an adult slowly warm 1/2 cup of heavy cream (or milk).
  2. When it begins simmering, stir in a few spoonfuls of vinegar (lemon juice will also work).
  3. Continue adding spoonfuls of vinegar and stirring until it begins to gel.
  4. Now let the it cool.
  5. Next, wash the rubbery stuff with water to clean it off. You'll have little plastic 'curds'.
Voila!  You have plastic!  If you want to really have some fun with it, take it to Dad and tell him you've been sitting out in the garage watching this stuff drip off from under the car for about an hour now.  Note: if he begins gathering up tools, it might be a good time to level with him...
The acid in the vinegar reacts with the casein in the milk making the plastic.  In practice, this type of plastic would be much too expensive for household use.   Oil-based plastics are much cheaper since the raw materials needed are much easier to come by.  But alas, even oil is a resource that will someday run out.   Scientists know this and are hard at work searching for new ways to make plastic.   Maybe you could be the one to find the answer...

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