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Plastic Deformation: Glass Transition of Some Plastics

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Areas of Science
Time Required
Average (6-10 days)
Adult supervision required for experiments using boiling water.
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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)


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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General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Plastic Deformation: Glass Transition of Some Plastics." Science Buddies, 20 Nov. 2020, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Chem_p034/chemistry/plastic-deformation-glass-transition-of-some-plastics. Accessed 27 May 2023.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2020, November 20). Plastic Deformation: Glass Transition of Some Plastics. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Chem_p034/chemistry/plastic-deformation-glass-transition-of-some-plastics

Last edit date: 2020-11-20
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