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Investigating the effectivness of PVA and PVAc as base polymers In the production of a polymer ball.


A monomer refers to a specific group of atoms that from a molecular unit. When monomers are

strung together like a long chain they form polymers.

A good analogy of polymers, would be long

connections of chains which become tangled like a bunch of spaghetti in a pot. The reason for experimenting with, and understanding polymers is because they play such a major roll and are found in many other molecules that make up life. Important facts about polymers are they have the highest molecular weight amongst molecules, and may consist of millions of atoms. Human DNA is a polymer consisting of over 20 billion component atoms, and they are regarded as the largest and most diverse category of known molecules. The objective was to ultimately understand how different kinds of polymer substances interact with each other, and the specific amounts needed to produce a bouncing ball. Although bouncing balls are made of all types of polymers, we wanted to test to see if it could be made out of these specific solutions. We mixed and omitted combinations of PVA, PVAc, Borax( which is responsible for crosslinking) and cornstarch, in order to try and create a bouncing ball that is non-toxic, eco-friendly and comprised of polymers. The overall outcome or goal in this experiment, was to evaluate which chemical combinations yielded the best attempts at producing a polymer ball that bounced and why.

Investigating the effectivness of PVA and PVAc as base polymers In the production of a polymer

Figure 1: Schematic illustration of how a polymer is formed. Second illustration is polymer found in white glue.


PVA and Borax mixture.

The experiment was performed in the chemistry lab at the University of South Florida. The

beakers were labeled so that there was no confusion. One PVAc solution, and the other PVA. We wanted to be extra careful when we used Borax and PVAc as both solutions were clear which if weren’t labeled would be very difficult to tell apart. We measured 10 mL of Borax in our Graduated cylinder, and poured the measured amount into the 100 mL beaker. We chose to add the borax first and the PVA second. We then repeated the same process with the PVA, measured 10 mL in a graduated cylinder and poured that into the 100ml beaker. We noted that if two graduated cylinders were not available, we would have had to rinse the one that was used thoroughly if not a chemical reaction would start to take place if any residual was left in the cylinder. Once the mixture was in the 100ml beaker we did not stir, the mixture was allowed to sit for 20-30 seconds and allow the chemical reaction or polymerization to begin to take place. After letting it sit, we started to stir until the substance became uniform, we also took our stirrer and poked at the uniformed substance to try and puncture any pockets of substance that may have not had a chance to react. Once the substance was uniformed or a semi solid, it was removed from the leftover solution, put in the palm of our hand and started to be rolled around until it started to form a ball. We first thought it seemed a little messy when we started to roll it around in our hands, but realized it was normal, and just continued rolling. As the ball became more solid it removed any excess residue that was left on our hands when we first started. We continued rolling until the ball was no longer sticky to the touch.


The previous experiment was done to show if PVA, Borax, PVAc and cornstarch when combined in specific ways could in fact produce a polymer ball that bounced. So we conducted

multiple experiments with multiple combinations with varying results. With most of the combinations we were able to achieve some form of a polymer ball, with the reactions ranging from one extreme to the other. Some combinations were either to goopy or so firm that in either case the ability to hold shape and bounce was void. Eight test were conducted using our final sample which was the mixture of 10ml of PVA and 10ml of Borax as the best sample. We ran two tests each at Room temperature, two test 0° C, two tests at 50° C, and two tests at 100° C. The two tests we ran at each temperature were how high the ball bounced starting at 100 cm, and how many times the ball bounced above 10 cm starting at a height of 100 cm. For the room temperature ball we concluded that its peak height was 42 cm after dropping it from 100 cm and it bounced a total of 3 times above 10 cm. For the ball at 0* C the same results were found. When we measured the ball at 50° C the ball bounced at a peak height of 22 cm and only bounced one time over 10 cm. When we measured the ball at 100 ° C the conclusions deviated from the first two temperatures. The ball at 100° C bounced to a peak height of 15 cm and only bounced one time above 10 cm.

  • a. We also tested the physical properties of the ball at numerous temperatures. The ball stayed at a consistent spherical shape at 0° C and at room temperature. The ball started to lose its shape at 50° C and was not able to hold its spherical shape at 100°C.

  • b. We tested the amount of pressure the ball could take at 250lbs. It was not able to return to its spherical shape.

  • c. It should be contained in an air tight plastic bag, oxygen hardened the ball and rendered it incapable of bouncing. After analyzing the data we as a group realized that the cornstarch was an irrelevant item in the process of making our bouncy ball. The final make up of our bouncy ball consisted of 10 mL

polyvinyl acetate and 10 mL of Sodium Borate. We then tested how high the balls bounced at room temperature, heated up to 100° C, and cooled to 32° C. We also measured the number of times each ball bounced at each temperature. Cold resistant. Holds shape up to 50°C, does not return to form at 250lbs of pressure. Although this may have been excessive, we wanted to test the extreme tolerances of the polymer in order to establish how much pressure would render the ball useless.


did not the best. Bounces the highest had to keep keep shape, would not bounced, slightly
did not
the best.
Bounces the
had to keep
keep shape,
would not
slightly slimy
clear ball,
0 Produced a
bounce at all
2.52 Held shape,
0 Keeps shape
firm, did not
bounce much
2 4
3.78 Too gritty,
1.27 To dry and
much, and
breaks easily
1 2
2 4
0 No reaction
2 1
1.89 Held
very hard, no
0 2
1.27 Did not keep
2.52 Did not keep
form well,
dry bounces
a little.
very firm no
shape well,
bounces a
little, was not
very slimy.
2 0
0 6
6 .63
Keeps shape,
bounces well.
re rolling
10 10
Amount of Polyvinyl Alcohol (mL) Results (g) Corn Starch Amount of Borate (mL) Sodium Amount of
Amount of
Alcohol (mL)
Corn Starch
Amount of
Borate (mL)
Amount of
Acetate (mL)
Amount of
Trials did not the best. Bounces the highest had to keep keep shape, would not bounced,

With the multitude of materials that can be used to produce a polymer ball, the PVA and Borax solution is just one way to go about accomplishing this task. Obviously there are combinations

where the result were not stellar. We as a group analyzed the data and realized that we needed to

omit cornstarch as it was absorbing the moisture out of the ball

even with smaller quantities,

rendering it slightly firmer, unable to bounce, and quick to become hard to the point of crumbling. One result produced no reaction, as we combined PVA and PVAc and omitted the Borax which made us realize that Borax was the solution which contained cross- linking ions which would allow the polymers in the PVA or PVAc to react. By looking at 9 th and tenth trails, you can see that both produced very good samples as the ratios stayed the same at 1:1 the increase in the amount of chemical used only made the size of the ball bigger but the chemical compound remained the same. With the exception of the .63 grams of cornstarch which inhibited the number nine sample to not perform as well as sample 10. Future improvements can be made, by having more precise measuring instruments, as we assume that our measurements are approximations as we could not account for the loss of some of the solution to the sides of the graduated cylinders, and beakers. Other improvements can be made by substituting the PVA and Borax, with sodium silicate and ethanol, which would produce a polymer ball that would bounce higher and be much more durable than the other due to the silicon properties, but it would render the ball not being as eco-friendly, and non-toxic. Some uses that this particular mixture could be used for, are fishing lures, or thinking outside of the box, this combination could be used as a form of second skin or a protective barrier for the skin for people with blisters, or scrapes, which could eventually take the place of band aids. It already has some basics in its favor being non-toxic, and ecofriendly, all that would need to happen is for it to be adaptive to the skin or used on prosthetics to give the feel of real skin. Our small scale experiment is just the tip of the iceberg when dealing with polymers. It gives us a basic foundation to build upon when thinking about polymers, such as the case with Dr. Harmon whose research with polymers covers a much more vast scale that can be applied to a wide range of industrial applications.


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"What Are Polymers?" WiseGEEK. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.

"What Is a Polymer?" What Is a Polymer? N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2013