Design Your Own Slime

Areas of Science Chemistry
Difficulty
Time Required Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety Supervision required for small children. The slime is not edible.

Abstract

There are many different kinds of slime out there. Some slime is runny and liquid-like; other slime is thick and rubbery. Some slime glows in the dark, some is fluffy, and some is even magnetic! What set of properties makes the best slime? What kind of slime would you choose to make if you were selling slime as a toy in your own "slime shop"? In this project, you will experiment with different slime recipes and try to perfect one to make the best slime.

Objective

Define desired properties for your slime, and then find the recipe that gives the best results.

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Credits

Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

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MLA Style

Finio, Ben. "Design Your Own Slime." Science Buddies, 30 July 2019, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Chem_p110/chemistry/design-your-own-slime. Accessed 17 Oct. 2019.

APA Style

Finio, B. (2019, July 30). Design Your Own Slime. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Chem_p110/chemistry/design-your-own-slime


Last edit date: 2019-07-30

Introduction

If you have ever played with slime, you know that it can be fun with all of its stretchy, bouncy, ickiness. Maybe you have noticed that some types of slime feel different than others. Have you ever wondered why slime behaves the way it does? It all has to do with chemistry. Chemistry is the study of matter, which is the stuff that everything around you is made of. Chemists are interested in finding out what different materials, such as slime, are made of, how these materials behave, and how they can be changed into other materials.

What is slime actually made of? If you have made slime before, you probably followed a recipe to put different ingredients together, similar to baking a cake. The ingredients used for slime usually include Elmer's® glue and borax. Elmer's glue is made up of a polymer. Polymers are long chain-shaped molecules.

The polymer chains in the Elmer's glue are long and very straight. The polymer chains can slide across each other easily, making the glue runny and "liquidy" (think of dumping a bunch of fresh-cooked spaghetti out of a pot). This changes, however, when you mix the glue with borax. The borax helps make connections between each of the polymer chains, as shown in Figure 1. This process is called crosslinking. This makes it harder for the polymer chains to slide around, making the glue thicker and turning it into "slime." In this project, you will use contact lens solution to make slime. It contains other ingredients (boric acid and sodium borate) that react with baking soda (another ingredient in your slime) to make borax.

Diagram showing how borax molecules form crosslinks between long, skinny polymer chains.
Figure 1. Straight polymer chains (left) are linked together by borax to form a cross-linked polymer (right).

You might wonder if changing the recipe changes the properties of the slime. In science, a property is something about a material that you can observe and measure, for example, its weight, color, or stickiness. There are many different types of slime with different properties. Some slime is thin and runny; some slime is thick and rubbery. You can add extra ingredients to slime to make it sparkly, magnetic, or glow-in-the-dark.

Terms and Concepts

  • Chemistry
  • Matter
  • Polymer
  • Crosslinking
  • Properties

Questions

  • If you could make any slime you wanted, what properties would you want it to have?
  • What ingredients do you think you would need to give your slime those properties?
  • Search online for slime recipes. What types of slime do you find recipes for?

Bibliography

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Materials and Equipment

This is an engineering design project, the exact list of materials you need may vary slightly. To make a typical basic slime recipe, you will need:

  • Washable PVA school glue (like Elmer's®)
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Contact lens solution (must contain both boric acid and sodium borate in ingredients)
  • Food coloring
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cup
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • Resealable plastic bags or food storage containers

You can also try various additives to change the properties of your slime:

Remember Your Display Board Supplies

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Poster Making Kit

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ArtSkills Trifold with Header

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Poster Lights

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Experimental Procedure

Note: This engineering project is best described by the engineering design process, as opposed to the scientific method. You might want to ask your teacher whether it's acceptable to follow the engineering design process for your project before you begin. You can learn more about the engineering design process in the Science Buddies Engineering Design Process Guide.
  1. Watch this video to learn how to make a basic slime recipe:
    1. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly mix 1/2 C water, 1/2 C glue, and a few drops of food coloring.
    2. Add 1/2 tsp baking soda and mix completely.
    3. Add 2 tbsp contact lens solution and stir vigorously until the mixture starts pulling away from the edges of the bowl.
    4. Use your hands to knead the slime for 5–10 minutes until its texture stops changing. Do not worry if the slime is very runny and sticks to your hands at first. It will continue to get thicker as you knead it. It gets easier to clean up the slime as you knead it more!
  2. If you have not already, do your own research online about slime recipes and different types of slime.
  3. Define criteria for your slime's properties. For example:
    • What should your slime look like?
    • What should your slime feel like?
    • How thick should your slime be?
    • How heavy should your slime be (dense and heavy or light and fluffy)?
    • Should your slime have any special properties (magnetic, glow-in-the-dark, etc.)?
  4. Define how you will evaluate your slime's properties. Some of the properties and observations may be qualitative (for example, you want the slime to be sparkly, and you can determine how sparkly it is by looking at it). Some properties can be measured quantitatively. Table 1 gives some examples of quantitative properties and how you can measure them.
Property Measurement
Heaviness Weigh a certain volume of slime
Bounciness Drop a ball of the slime next to a ruler and measure how high the slime bounces
Stretchiness Measure how far you can stretch the slime before it breaks
Thickness Place a ball of slime on a flat surface and measure how quickly it spreads out to a circle of a certain diameter
Table 1. Examples of quantitative measurements.
  1. Based on your background research, write down a recipe that you think will result in slime with these properties.
  2. Follow the recipe to make the slime. When you are done, observe your slime's properties and record them in a data table like Table 2.
Slime Batch # Recipe Slime Properties
1   
2   
3   
...   
Table 2. Example data table.
  1. Do your slime's properties exactly match the criteria you defined in step 3? If not, now it is time to iterate. This is an important part of the engineering design process. You may need to make changes to your slime recipe, try again, and evaluate how the properties changed.
    1. In general, it is important to only change one thing at a time. If you change two ingredients at once, you might not be able to tell which one resulted in a property change.
    2. If your recipe did not work at all, or came out very different from how you expected, you may need to go "back to the drawing board" or make more dramatic changes.
  2. Make changes to your recipe based on your observations and knowledge of what different ingredients contribute to the slime (for example, using more contact lens solution should make the slime thicker). Follow your new recipe to make another batch of slime and evaluate its properties.
  3. Keep iterating and testing new slime recipes until you have found a recipe that gives you slime with all the desired properties.
  4. Store each batch of slime in a separate, airtight container for future use. If you want to dispose of your slime, put it in the trash. Do not try to pour slime down the drain, or it will cause a clog.

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What makes it possible to create high-technology objects like computers and sports gear? It's the materials inside those products. Materials scientists and engineers develop materials, like metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, that other engineers need for their designs. Materials scientists and engineers think atomically (meaning they understand things at the nanoscale level), but they design microscopically (at the level of a microscope), and their materials are used macroscopically (at the level the eye can see). From heat shields in space, prosthetic limbs, semiconductors, and sunscreens to snowboards, race cars, hard drives, and baking dishes, materials scientists and engineers make the materials that make life better. Read more


Variations

  • Do "product testing" for your slime. Recruit volunteers to play with different batches of slime. What type of slime do they like best? Use their feedback to help you iterate and improve your slime recipe.

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I did this project Yes, I Did This Project! Please log in (or create a free account) to let us know how things went.

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