High School Labs
Make it and Break it: Bioplastics from plant starch with incorporation of engineering practices
We have designed a guided-inquiry version of the traditional starch-to-plastics experiment by using readily available potato, tapioca root, and corn starch in combination with a variety of additives, such as glycerol, sugar, and glue. The resulting flexible materials can be cut into dog bone shapes and subjected to tensile testing in order to evaluate their strength. The experimental design therefore includes engineering principles which are part of Next Generation Graduation Standards. This inexpensive and versatile experiment introduces students to the challenges our society faces in finding environmentally-friendly solutions to today’s plastics.Teaching Materials
Polymeric Medical Sutures: An exploration of polymers and green chemistry
Stitches (or medical sutures) are used to teach students about the structure and properties of polymers. Students explore a series of different molecular weights polymers of caprolactone, a degradable polymer used by the medical industry, pulling strands of threads from the polymer melt. Tensile testing of the homemade threads and real medical sutures allows incorporation of engineering principles and analysis of data in an interactive discovery-based learning experience. Geared to all levels of the high school classroom, this novel experiment exploits students’ familiarity with absorbable and non-absorbable stitches as a platform to discuss non-degradable and degradable polymers as well as green chemistry principles.
Synthesis of a renewable resource block copolymer
Looking for a green and engaging polymer experiment to add to your organic chemistry laboratory curriculum to meet new ACS accreditation guidelines? Look no further. We offer two versions of a polymer experiment, which begins with readily available naturally-occurring lactones, used by the flavor and fragrance industries, in combination with L-lactide to synthesize block polymers. Analysis by 1H NMR,13C NMR, or IR spectroscopy allows quantification of each block as well as determination of molecular mass. Students can also explore these fun materials in self-designed mechanical tests. Successfully performed by over 4,000 students in our labs, these experiments introduce modern innovations in sustainable polymer chemistry.Teaching Materials
Effect of size and composition on the properties of renewable copolymers
This discovery-based organic chemistry laboratory experiment involves the green synthesis of four different renewable block copolymers derived from two fragrant, naturally-occurring lactones and varying quantities poly(L-lactide), PLA. Students work in a cooperative-learning environment to explore and compare their materials and design simple adhesive, flexibility, or strength testing as a rare opportunity to “play” with their products. The experiment offers a modern approach to incorporating polymer chemistry into the curriculum with a topic, sustainable plastics, germane to everyone.