Chemistry is not just for the laboratory. Borax and white glue, easy to purchase if not already at home, provide for some home chemistry with fun results. Fun should be tempered with safety, so be sure an adult is present and care is taken to keep chemicals out of the eyes and mouth.
What Is Borax?
Borax is found at grocery stores, in the laundry aisle, as a laundry booster. The company that makes Borax began mining borates in the Mojave Desert in Boron, California. Borates are now also mined in Argentina. This element is never found as pure boron. It is mined as a borate mineral, a kind of chemical salt.
Borates are not just used in cleaning and laundry applications, but also in fiberglass, glazes, additives for polymers and insect control. When Borax is mixed with white glue as a polymer additive, it helps the long polymer molecules in the glue stick together and become slimy, as in the toy called Slime.
Borax has a fascinating history that can be found here:
What Is White Glue?
White glue is an adhesive containing polyvinyl acetate, a polymer, and other ingredients that make things stick when it dries. It's mostly used in gluing paper products. White glue comes in both the liquid form and as glue sticks. Liquid white glue is used in making Slimy Goop.
The first white glue was made in 1947, by the Borden company. The name eventually became Elmer's Glue-All, and Elmer's is usually the brand name thought of now when purchasing white glue. This website, http://www.elmers.com/default.aspx, provides more information and fun facts.
What Is a Polymer?
The "slime" that is made by mixing Borax and white glue is all because of polymers.
A polymer is a large molecule in which the atoms are connected in repeating links. Each separate link is a monomer. "Mono" means one and "poly" means many. Polymers come naturally, such as in protein molecules, or can be synthetic, as in the white glue molecules or a polyester fabric molecule. When Borax and glue are mixed, the Borax links with the glue polymers to create the slime, or "gak" or "goop"; the substance has many names. There are all sorts of recipes and links on the Internet, but the following recipe, here called Slimy Goop, has been used successfully over and over again.
Borax and Glue Slime Recipe
1 tbsp. Borax powder
1/4 cup liquid white glue
Food coloring drops (optional)
Resealable plastic bags, quart size
Wash your hands -- you will be handling the Slimy Goop, and dirt and bacteria on your hands can eventually cause mold to grow.
Put 1/2 cup distilled water into a paper cup, and stir in 1 heaping teaspoon of Borax powder; stir until dissolved.
In the resealable plastic bag, mix the 1/4 cup white glue with 1/4 cup water. Seal the bag and mix by squeezing and squishing it. Add some food coloring drops, if desired, and mix some more.
- Open the plastic bag, and pour in the Borax solution. Reseal the bag and squeeze and squish.
The Borax solution is linking the long glue polymer molecules to develop the Slimy Goop. As it gets thicker with less liquid, take it out of the bag and continue squeezing and squishing with your hands. This property is called rheopectic, in which it gets firmer as it is shaken and squished.
Notice that the Slimy Goop can stretch like a liquid when it's pulled slowly. When you pull it quickly apart, it snaps into two more solid pieces. This is an example of a non-Newtonian fluid, a fluid that has both liquid and solid properties.
Wash your hands before and after making the Slimy Goop. This is a safety measure for the goop, so it won't grow mold, and for you, who are handling chemicals.
Do not eat the Slimy Goop or leave it where pets and/or younger siblings may eat it.
Keep it out of carpets, furniture and hair; it can stick, and the food coloring can stain.
Keep the Slimy Goop stored in a resealable bag in the refrigerator between uses. It will keep indefinitely, but if it gets moldy, throw it away and make some fresh goop.
Making Slimy Goop and learning about polymers through household chemistry is fun. The slime-related pranks can fun too.
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