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Materials Science Project Ideas

Project Idea
There are three different kinds of polymers used for kitchen plastic wrap: low density polyethylene (LDPE) (e.g., Handiwrap or Glad Wrap), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (e.g., Reynolds PVC Foodservice Wrap or Boardwalk PVC Food Wrap Film) and polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC)(e.g., Saran Wrap, which is almost 90% polyvinylidene chloride). Which of these materials is least permeable to oxygen? When you slice an apple, the surface of the slice turns brown as the apple is oxidized. Can plastic wrap seal… Read more
Chem_p033
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Material Availability Some types of plastic wraps may need to be specially ordered. Various PVC wraps are available through Amazon.
Project Idea
Ever try to tear a telephone book in half? Even though you can easily rip one or a few pages to shreds, the entire phone book has strength in numbers and holds together. This project is an introduction to measuring and comparing the strength of materials. Does spaghetti get extra strength if you bundle it together, or does strength simply increase proportionally with the number of strands? If you're interested in materials testing, get cracking! Read more
MatlSci_p010
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues
Project Idea
How effective are different sunscreen products at blocking harmful UV radiation from sunlight? This project shows you how to use a UV detector to find out. Read more
MatlSci_p015
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Specialty items
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety Protect yourself from sunburn while you make the measurements for this project.
Project Idea
Here's a practical engineering challenge: you need to build an enclosure for your dogs, using material that they can't chew through. It's going to be a lot of work to build, so you want to do it right. What material should you choose for the fencing? This project uses the scientific method to evaluate materials. Read more
MatlSci_p018
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Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
Project Idea
thumbnail Have you ever seen an arch structure in a building, such as over a doorway or surrounding large windows? Arches have been used for structural engineering since ancient times. This experiment tests the strength of a naturally occurring arch shape: the shell of an egg. How much mass do you think an eggshell can support? Read more
MatlSci_p021
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety Adult supervision and safety goggles are required if a rotary motor tool is used. Thoroughly clean any surface the raw eggs touched because they can carry Salmonella.
Project Idea
If you're interested in analyzing how things break, check out the Science Buddies project Fractography: The Way Things Break. Read more
MatlSci_p032
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Project Idea
thumbnail It's easy to forget that metals are everywhere and in nearly everything. They are a part of our lives in so many ways that we hardly notice them. But just stop and think about it. We use metal spoons to eat and cook our food. Cars, bikes, and planes are composed of metals. Metals are in our furniture and part of your school supplies. Some people even have metal in the dental work in their mouths. Their strength and dependence is obviously very important. But what are metals? In this science… Read more
MatlSci_p038
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Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Specialty items required. You will need aluminum and copper sheet metal. See the Materials & Equipment section for more information.
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety Minor injury is possible. Use caution when using a hammer and when handling the sheets of metal, which have sharp edges. Adult supervision is recommended.
Project Idea
Does adhesive tape hang tight at different temperatures? Measure the adhesive strength of tape at both low and high temperatures. To raise the temperature, we suggest using a blow dryer at both low and high heat settings. To lower the temperature, use an ice pack (try to keep condensation from forming on the tape and confounding the results). For even lower temperatures you could try "dry ice" (frozen carbon dioxide), if available. (Wear heavy gloves when handling dry ice, because it can… Read more
MatlSci_p031
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Project Idea
For many kids, a day at the beach would not be complete without building a sandcastle. Have you ever wondered how it is that you can pack sand into a mold for a sandcastle? Do some kinds of sand pack better than others? This project will show you how to measure the porosity of sand: how much air space there is in between the sand grains. Maybe you can use your knowledge from this project to help you make bigger and better projects with sand. Read more
MatlSci_p024
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety No issues
Project Idea
Is an I-beam as strong as a solid beam of the same size? What if you include weight in the comparison: which beam has the greater strength-to-weight ratio? Would an I-beam be stronger than a solid rectangular beam of the same weight? What about other structural shapes (e.g., T-beams, U-beams)? In this project you can find out by setting up a test stand, putting on your safety goggles and measuring how much stress these building components can handle before they snap. Read more
MatlSci_p011
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Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety Minor injury possible: Wear safety glasses when testing beam capacity. Keep hands and feet clear of the area underneath the weight bucket, which may fall at any time.
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