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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sodium Silicate Polymer Lab Investigation

How do you make a sodium silicate polymer? That is the question we answered in our latest lab investigation. This is my hypothesis (what I thought was going to happen): If you mix ethyl alcohol with a sodium silicate solution, then you will make a polymer because when sodium silicate is added to ethyl alcohol, silicate chains form and the oxygen atoms of the silicate are replaced by ethyl. In order to find out if this hypothesis was supported, we mixed 12mL of sodium silicate with 3mL of ethyl alcohol. A polymer was formed, thus proving our hypothesis to be correct. We then rolled up the polymer into a ball, and went through some rebound tests. Then we froze the polymer ball, and went through the rebound tests once again. Below is a graph showing our results:

As with our first lab, once the polymer was frozen, it bounced slightly lower. When we compared our results with the group behind us, we discovered that our ball bounced slightly higher, and was smaller in diameter. Our ball turned out pretty good, but not very easily. At first we thought we might even have to start over because the polymer would not form. We had to put it under a lot of water because it got squished when we were rolling it. The polymer was squishy and moldable, but only if you touched it. Otherwise it stayed firm and held it's shape. It was sort of white, and also see through. It looked very similar to an ice cube or frozen water.

Sort of like this: After we froze the ball it became almost completely white and opaque.

We had originally done a lab about polymers that involved borax and glue, where we also made a polymer. Below is a diagram that I created to compare and contrast the two polymers:
Carbon is the basis of much life on Earth, the next best thing, as many believe, would be silicon. Silicon has an equal number of electrons in it's outer shell as carbon. This means that silicon can also create four bonds just like carbon. Certain types of carbon molecules (like carbon dioxide) derive from silcon.

Silicone polymer is a synthetic polymer created with silicon. It is a plastic polymer as well. It is similar to plastics, since it is a plastics polymer.

I know that a chemical reaction has taken place between two mixed liquids when they change their state of matter. For example, when borax solution is mixed with glue solution, a chemical reaction occurs and the mixture becomes solid instead of liquid. Same with ethyl alchol and sodium silcate.

I could find out what liquid was pressed out of the mass of a crumbled solid as I formed the ball by looking at it, and studying it. Also by smelling it, and if I knew what had been used to create the ball, I could probably make a hypothesis as to what it was.

When I compared my group's polymer ball with another group's, I discovered that the other group's "super ball" was a lot larger in diameter, and it also bounced a lot lower. After the other group's ball was frozen, it's highest bounce was 10cm, and ours was 14cm.


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