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Plastic Deformation: Glass Transition of Some Plastics *

Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Safety Adult supervision required for experiments using boiling water.
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


Some plastics undergo an unusual transition, from a hard, glassy state to a soft, rubbery state, with increased temperature. For this project, you should do background research on the effects of temperature on different types of plastics. Make sure that you understand the difference between thermosetting and thermoplastic polymers. You should also look for information on the glass transition temperature (Tg) for different plastics. Pure polyvinyl acetate has a Tg of 28 C (about 82 F). You can make a sample of this polymer by pouring some Elmer's Glue-All into a plastic bowl or plate and allowing it to evaporate for several days. Cut strips of the resulting material for your experiments. Try dipping the strip into warm water and immediately wrap it around a pen or pencil to make a spiral. Dip it in ice water. Describe the properties of the polymer at the two temperatures. What happens if the spiral is reheated? Additives in the glue may shift the Tg away from that of pure polyvinyl acetate. Use water heated to different temperatures to determine the Tg for your polymer. Other plastics, such as polystyrene (recycling code #6), have higher Tg's. With an adult's help, you can investigate these materials using boiling water. (To raise the temperature of boiling water slightly higher, add a few tablespoons of salt. Search on "colligative properties" to find out how this works.) (Goodstein, 2004, 105-109)

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Science Buddies Staff. "Plastic Deformation: Glass Transition of Some Plastics" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 30 June 2014. Web. 30 Aug. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Chem_p034.shtml>

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Science Buddies Staff. (2014, June 30). Plastic Deformation: Glass Transition of Some Plastics. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Chem_p034.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-06-30


Goodstein, M., 2004. Plastics and Polymers Science Fair Projects: Using Hair Gel, Soda Bottles, and Slimy Stuff. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers.

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