Monday, November 28, 2011

Dissecting a Diaper

Mystified by the amount of water a single diaper can hold? 

If you've got a few extra diapers laying around after last week's experiment, consider dissecting one and to learn what's inside. 

You'll need a diaper, a pair of scissors, and a zip-top bag.  You may also find it convenient to work over a black piece of paper.

Begin by cutting a slit in the diaper.

Pull the "stuffing" out of the diaper and place it in the bag. 

At this point, you may feel some small granules, and notice white powder gathering on your piece of black paper.  These are sodium polyacrylate crystals - the magical component of disposable diapers. 

You can gather additional crystals by sealing the bag and shaking it for a minute or two. 

While shaking, the crystals should separate from the cotton and settle at the bottom for the bag. 

Once you've isolated the crystals, you can experiment with them (though you won't have very many from a single diaper).  See how much water they absorb.  Or try one of the water-absorbing crystal tricks mentioned here

Again, it could be interesting to compare the crystals found in different brands of diapers - are they all the same size, do they come in the same quantity? 

A good scientific exploration to learn more about the world around us, and also an introduction to polymer chemistry!

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