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Homework Help: Coursework Chemistry Project -- Idendification of different types of polymer

  1. Jan 12, 2016 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    Topic : Idendification of different types of polymer
    Suggested materials : Plastic bottles or materials
    Sugeested methods of analysis : Volumetric analysis, Chromatography ,pH, Solvent extration, Distillation
    General purpose of project : To inculcate awareness on health and environment, To instill good moral values, To apply basic scientific skill and to apply the basic chemical principle in investigation
    2. Relevant equations

    3. The attempt at a solution
    This is my project in my Year-2.Polymer is a large molecule, or macromolecule, composed of many repeated subunits.
    Here is my thought to coursework:
    Prepare few types of plastic cup, polystrene cup.
    Add water with high temperature (preffered boiling water) into the polymer cup
    My problem is, is there any chemical reaction during hot water with polymer cup ? I knew that its dangerous when we drink hot water in plastic cup, but it seems nothing related to chemistry.
    Is the pH value will change if hot water is in plastic cup? If not, is there any experiment that related to polymer that i can carry up ? Because the only experiment i can think is temperature affecting the polymer.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2016 #2


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    It is possible to de-polymerize some polymers, by no means all, thermally. Generally much higher T than boiling water is required. Can you be a bit more specific with your inquiry?
  4. Jan 12, 2016 #3


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    What a horrible project! The whole idea of, for example, plastic cups is that when you put boiling water into them nothing happens. And generally what we call 'polymers' are chemically and physically rather inert.

    I did work for a few months in a polymer lab. Dissolving them was a frequent challenge. Note that these were polymers freshly made by us and maybe precipitated. So we would try things like acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, benzene, toluene, hexane, higher paraffins, 'pet ether',, that tended to be the order of increasing effectiveness.. About the last resource was 'White spirit' - I can remember boiling in white spirit under reflux for about three days some goo till a little bit of it dissolved, judged by the dirty colour. But those were polymers we made and as I say commercial ones are probably engineered to make this even more difficult. The only reason I'm telling you all this is to tell you the story of how in this lab one winter it snowed heavily and guys who cycled to work got their socks wet. Since we dried all glassware by rinsing with acetone and blowing that off with a hot fan, the guys decided they could use that technique to dry their nylon socks. However the socks dissolved into a blob on the radiator. How we did laugh.

    And Anyway if and when you have dissolved your polymer material, what are you going to do with it?

    I guess the only way to have any fun at all with this project, would involve making some polymers yourselves. Preferably ones you could use for something else scientific.

    The only thing that comes to my mind, and that might be useful because you might encounter it later is polyacrylamide. Gels easy to make. Useful - because you can use them for things like molecular weight analysis of proteins and DNA in biochemistry. Those are polymers too. Look up a few articles on polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE). As well as all Materials for the gel you also need a few cheap proteins which you can get from a biochemical supplier with a range of molecular masses to compare, a stain to visualize the proteins.

    You have been asked to be conscious of safety etc. so for start.

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2016
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