Polymers in our lives - Expanded Polystyrene

Ninth grade students have got a project task about polymers, their importance in our everyday life and impact on the environment.

One group has chosen to concentrate on the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) or by its  trademarked brand name - Styrofoam. They found that Expanded Polystyrene is produced from solid Polystyrene beads.

(Polystyrene (PS) is a synthetic polymer that contains long chains, which are made from the monomers (basic units) of styrene).

Expanded Polystyrene is closed-cell foam, rigid and tough, usually white, but can also be colored.

EPS has very good insulation properties and is used in many types of products, from cups and containers that keep our beverages and food hot or cold to packaging material that keep our computers safe during shipping. EPS can be used even as thermal insulation for building and construction.

Usage examples of the EPS:

Alongside many benefits Expanded Polystyrene has negative impacts on environment, such as air pollution by chemical by-products released during the creation of EPS, it is non-biodegradable, EPS waste takes up a lot of space, etc.

Students decided to explore one of the possible ways to reduce the EPS waste volume and to recycle it.  

They had made a preliminary experiment and tried to understand what has happened there.

The video below shows the experiment they made.

Watch the video and help the group of students to understand what has happened to the EPS:


0 People tried to answer this question

Acetone reacted with Styrofoam to create new polymer with a different structure than Styrofoam.

Styrofoam changed his external form due to high concentration of acetone.

Acetone dissolved the Styrofoam soluble parts of thefoam cellsand released the trapped air.
Styrofoam has melted by acetone, trapped air has been released.

1.  amer athar (2014-12-20 15:00:00)
ps- comment

Hi veronica …

I think your question is very good, I liked the paragraph you wrote before the question, I think it expand the students' knowledge.

  Points to improve:

I think the chemical structure that you showed in the beginning of the question is not relevant , it could confuse middle school student, that mean they could think that the question is difficult , although it not.

Thank u , will done  

2.  abo shkara mohand (2014-12-20 15:00:00)
Expanded polystyrene
hi vironeka : 

The question and answers are phrased in a clear way , the experiment shown in the video is very good.
The point on the map, Kal-Kar Ein Carmel ,is a good example for polystyrene's productiaon.

points to improve : 

I recommend to mention that polystyrene can be used in construction .
3.  Pelekhov Veronika (2005-02-20 16:00:00)
Answer to Athar
Hi, Athar,
Thank you for your remarks and suggestions.
After you've mentioned that the picture with a chemical structure of  EPS  is too difficult  for the middle school students, I’ve  checked the picture again and thought about it. You helped me to understand that the picture, indeed, very complicated for these ages. It looks obvious and simple for me, but not for the middle school students.
Thank you again,
4.  Pelekhov Veronika (2007-02-20 16:00:00)
Reply to Mohand

Hi, Mohand,

Thank you for your suggestion, I’ve added the fact that EPS can be a good insulation in the building process. Good point, indeed.

Thank you,


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