Natural and Synthetic Polymers
This list of resources covers polymers at KS4
Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or other recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance
Links and Resources
This is a set of resources produced by the Gatsby foundation that comprises an introductory booklet on plastics with interesting background information. The booklet links to a series of short PowerPoint presentations containing the slides in the information booklet. There are a number of suggested teacher and student activities suggested, all with associated notes and worksheets. It would be very easy using this resource to plan a lesson introducing polymers which would stimulate students' interest in the properties and benefits of this diverse range of materials.
This resource describes the demonstration of the dramatic collapse of the volume of a polymer foam when added to a suitable solvent demonstrating that this space filling polymer is mainly gas. The demonstration describes how to dissolve up to 5 dm3 of polystyrene in a small amount of propanone.
This resource from the RSC details how to make slime using PVA adhesive and a solution of sodium tetraborate. The resulting gel is an example of a crosslinked polymers and the resource which includes a student worksheet gives details of the chemistry of the crosslinking process. The PVA glue is itself a polymer and is crosslinked using sodium tetraborate producing slime which has different properties to the adhesive itself.
This resource describes the fortuitous discovery of Teflon by a chemist who was working at the DuPont Chemical Plant. It includes background information for teachers and a student worksheet describing the discovery in an interesting way and including questions to encourage students to think about the ideas being presented. This could be used as part of a lesson on polymers to introduce applications or a human context.
This resource bundles several student worksheets giving students practice at drawing the structure of a polymer given the monomer and vica versa, as well as naming the monomer from the name of the polymer and the reverse. The resource needs some explanation to be used effectively and it might be useful to model answering a question or two for groups before setting them off on the task, but provides good practise in this skill.
This short video from Twig World charts the history of the discovery of nylon which was the world's first synthetic fibre and heralded a revolution in the clothes manufacturing industry. The video could be used a short interlude in a lesson looking at polymers generally or as an introduction to a lesson on condensation polymers to whet the appetite of students for the material to follow. The resource includes a transcript and a number of images that could be used as a basis for project or poster work on polymers.
This is another short video from Twig World this time focusing more on the chemistry of addition polymerisation and the factors that affect the properties of the final polymer. This would be more suitable once students have a basic understanding of what polymers are and have learned about how alkenes link together to form addition polymers.
This short video looks at the issue of disposal of plastics and makes the case for recycling of plastic products. It links recycling options to whether the plastic is thermosoftening or thermosetting and briefly looks at mechanical and chemical recycling for these two groups of plastics. It finishes by discussing the design of biodegradable plastics and the desirability of manufacturing less plastic in the first place. This video might be useful at the start of a lesson on disposal/recycling of plastics to stimulate discussion of options available.
This article from the October 2014 issue of Catalyst looks at the polyamide (nylon) called Kevlar which has very special properties in terms of mechanical strength and finds uses in many areas including sports equipment, mechanical parts and bullet proof vests. Could be used to enrich the study of condensation polymers and particularly nylon.
This resource contains a suite of activities related to increasing students' awareness of plastics and the issues surrounding the disposal and recycling of plastics. Used selectively it could provide ideas for discussion or project work in this area.
In this activity students look at the issue of use of plastic shopping bags. The resource contains a power point and student sheets as well as teacher notes on how to run the activity. The activity involves students acting as "expert witnesses" and answering questions from other students who then formulate a view on the problem based on the presented evidence. A nice approach to getting students to debate a topical issue allowing them to gather and balance evidence for and against approaches to solving an environmental issue created by our dependence on plastics.
This resource from the ILPAC (Independent Learning Project for Advanced Chemistry) series was designed to be used by A level students to stimulate independent learning in this subject area. It is included here as it might be found useful as a source of information and ideas for non subject specialists who are teaching about polymers and would like more information, or an alternative approach to presenting some of the ideas relevant to this section of the course. It includes sections on the polymers of life, proteins, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. Some of the simpler student activities presented could be used with GCSE students as they are.