Science Experiment: Polymers – Borax Goo

Science Experiment: Polymers – Borax Goo

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What You Need:

  • White Glue
  • Borax (In the Laundry Detergent Aisle)
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Ziploc Bag
  • Measuring Cups
  • Spoon
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Food Coloring (Optional)

Measure 1 cup water into an empty bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of Borax to the water and stir until the Borax is dissolved. Now put 1/2 cup white glue in a ziploc bag and add 1 cup water. Seal the bag and squish to mix the glue and water. Now add the water/Borax mixture to the ziploc bag. Reseal the bag and squish it some more. After you mix it for awhile empty the ziploc bag out onto the cookie sheet and mix it with your hands. Borax Goo is like Cornstarch Goo – it’s a non-Newtonian fluid. That means that sometimes it acts like a liquid and sometimes it acts like a solid.

Sir Isaac Newton is famous for figuring out certain rules that apply to things on earth. One of his rules is that matter can take three forms: solid, liquid and gas. Liquids flow and take the shape of the container they are in. The Gak/Flubber/Gluep seems like a liquid because it flows off your fingers and it takes the shape of the container you put it in. But when you squeeze the Gak/Flubber/Gluep…it turns into a solid. So which is it? A liquid or a solid? It’s a non-Newtonian fluid because it doesn’t behave by Sir Isaac Newton’s rules.

Gak/Flubber/Gluep is also a polymer. That means it’s molecules are arranged in a long chain. When the chain of molecules stretches…like the goo flowing off the fingers in this photo, the goo behaves like a liquid and flows. As soon as the Gak/Flubber/Gluep has pressure applied to it – like when you squeeze it in your fist or when you rest your hand on it in the tray, it behaves like a solid and feels stiff and strong.

Usually matter turns into a liquid when it is heated and when liquid is heated it “gets runnier.” How easily a liquid flows is called viscosity. Water has a low viscosity and flows fast. Honey has a high viscosity and flows slowly. If you heat honey or lava…it flows faster. That is one of Sir Isaac’s rules too…that the viscosity of liquids goes up as the liquid is heated. With Gak/Flubber/Gluep, the viscosity is changes when you put pressure on it instead of when you heat it.

Science Project Idea: Get three bowls and measure 1 cup of a powdered substance into each bowl. 1 cup of borax in bowl #1, 1 cup of baking soda in bowl #2 and 1 cup of flour in bowl #3. If you step back and look at the bowls they will all look pretty much the same – a bowl with white powder in it. Now pour 1/2 cup of water into each bowl and mix each bowl with your fingers. Do the mixtures behave the same? How do they behave differently? How would you describe each mixture? A solid or a liquid? You could also try baking soda and powdered sugar and cornstarch.

Here are some websites and books to help you experiment with your own slimy Gak/Flubber/Gluep or whatever you want to call it.

Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes Plastics and Polymers Plastics and Polymers Science Fair Projects Experimental Chemistry

Words to Know:

Polymers – Molecules arranged in a long chain.
Non-Newtonian Fluid – A fluid that doesn’t flow like you would expect when you put pressure on it.
Liquid – A state of matter. In the liquid state, matter can flow or take the shape of the container it is in.
Viscosity – How resistant to flowing a liquid is. Water has low viscosity and flows fast. Honey has high viscosity and flows slow.

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