Experimenting with slime

Slime videos have been going viral on social media. From clear slime, glittery slime, to fluffy purple slime, people have been experimenting with creating this satisfying and widely-loved substance. So we decided to do the same with the help of some“do-it-yourself” videos and tutorials.

We attempted to make fluffy slime, which is classic slime that is a bit more light and fluffy.

For the recipe we followed, we needed Elmer’s glue, contact solution, baking soda, and shaving cream.

The first time we made it, the slime turned into a gum-like consistency, which was definitely not what we were looking for. It was tough and lumpy.

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This made us to wonder: Why did this recipe fail? Was it the quantities used? Or perhaps the brand of ingredients we were using was bad? With this in mind, we set out on a mission to identify our faults and create the perfect slime.

Theoretically, slime seems simple. Just toss together a few ingredients, stir, then watch the magic happen; at least, that’s what we expected from the numerous videos we watched on Instagram and YouTube.

But after trying (and failing) several times, we realized that there was indeed science behind the magic.

Glue, is the heart of all slime recipes, and contains long flexible molecules that are called polymers. The contact solution, which acts as the binder, consists a binding ion called a borate ion. When we added the contact solution to the glue, polymer molecules were linked together. When we added enough of the borate ions to bind the glue, the glue changed from liquid to the rubbery solid we call slime.

So what caused our first slime adventure to go awry? Our hypothesis is that we had just gone overboard with the contact solution; there were too many polymers bonding the glue, which caused the slime to become tough. In addition, because the slime was so rubbery, it couldn’t hold the water from both the contact solution and the shaving cream that we added to make the slime fluffy; this caused it to break apart into a lumpy, rubbery mess. Finally, in our first trial, we added baking soda to the mix because the recipe directed us to do so. Upon further research, we found out that baking soda reacts with the borate ions and polymers to allow the slime to ooze and flow. However, our slime definitely did not do that; we hypothesize that insufficient baking soda was responsible for the stubborn puddle of goo left at the bottom of our bowl.

So we tried again, this time being much more careful with the amount of contact solution and baking soda we used.

Our slime turned out a lot more fluffy and moldable, which was what we were hoping to create in the first place. Unfortunately, the slime still stuck to our hands, leaving a bit of residue on our skin, but it was definitely closer to what we were looking for.

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While we did not end up making the perfect slime, we were able to comprehend the science behind it and  really learn about what makes slime, slime.

For more exploration, check out these resources!

http://www.funathomewithkids.com/2014/08/the-science-behind-slime.html

www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/adventures-in-chemistry/experiments/slime.html

Co-reported with: Lauren Smith and Joelene Latief

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