The Incredible Shrinking Polymer
You probably don’t recognize the white material in the photo above because it’s been magnified with a microscope. Can you guess what it is?
News You Can Use
- It’s a plastic named polystyrene. Like other plastics, polystyrene is a hydrocarbon made from petroleum.
- You may know polystyrene as “number 6 plastic” (for the number 6 inside its recycling symbol). It’s used to make containers, like these:
- Polystyrene is an extremely useful material, but not just for containers. Polystyrene has an interesting property that makes it a fun craft material. It’s the basis of popular craft kits, such as Shrinky Dinks®.
- You can use a Shrinky Dink kit to make small plastic creations from thin sheets of polystyrene.
- You can craft your own homemade Shrinky Dinks® by recycling number 6 plastic containers. To see how, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_BC94oBeWQ
Can You Apply It?
Learn more about polystyrene and Shrinky Dinks® at the links below. Then answer the following questions.
- What are polymers?
- Describe the polymer polystyrene.
- Shrinky Dink® creations start out as a thin sheet of polystyrene. Describe the arrangement of polymer molecules in a sheet of polystyrene. Why are the molecules arranged this way?
- Explain what happens to polystyrene molecules when a sheet of polystyrene is heated. How does this affect the polystyrene sheet?
- How have scientists used the shrinking property of polystyrene sheets in nanotechnology?