Chemistry Club demonstration foams up interest

A demonstration at Chemistry Club sponsor Carolyn Horst impressed sophomores Rebecca Hallanan and Colton Serven on Monday.

“It was really cool seeing the Styrofoam just disappear,” Serven said. “Just watching made me want to learn how it happened.”

The demonstration involved dipping Styrofoam objects such as cups, egg cartons, and take-out containers  into acetone, which is the main chemical in nail-polish remover. The acetone breaks the bonds between the polymers of the plastic and lets the air out of the foam, creating the illusion of the object disappearing.

“After the demonstration we got to go to our own stations and melt down the different Styrofoams,” Hallanan said. “When the Styrofoam was left in the acetone for a few seconds it looked like slime, and it felt really cold.”

The loose polymers join to make a sort of liquid plastic that can be easily stretched and reshaped. The liquid plastic can then be put into molds to make objects out of weak plastic.

“I got to take the Styrofoam home and it hardened after a day,” Hallanan said.

Next week’s Chemistry Club will feature cookie chemistry led by club co-sponsor Robert Klaasen.

By Cayman Alford