This is one of those ‘chemistry magic show’ type of experiments to wow your friends and family. Here’s the scoop: you take a cup of clear liquid, add it to another cup of clear liquid, stir for ten seconds, and you’ll see a color change, a state change from liquid to solid, and you can pull a rubber-like bouncy ball right out of the cup.


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If you have trouble locating the ingredients, you can order them online here:


  • Sodium Silicate (from Unit 3) MSDS
  • Ethyl Alcohol (check your pharmacy) MSDS
  • Disposable cups (at least two – and don’t use your kitchen glassware, as you’ll never get it clean again)
  • Popsicle sticks (again, use something disposable to stir with)


Download Student Worksheet & Exercises


1. In one cup, measure four tablespoons of sodium silicate solution (it should be a liquid). Sodium silicate can be irritating to the skin for some people, so wear rubber gloves when doing this experiment!


2. Measure 1 tablespoon of ethyl alcohol into a second cup. Ethyl alcohol is extremely flammable—cap it and keep out of reach when not in use.


3. Pour the alcohol into the sodium silicate solution and stir with a Popsicle stick.


4. You’ll see a color change (clear to milky-white) and a state change (liquid to a solid clump.


5. Using gloves, gather up the polymer ball and firmly squeeze it in your hands.


6. Compress it into the shape you want—is it a sphere, or do you prefer a dodecahedron?


7. Bounce it!


8. Be patient when squeezing the compound together. If it breaks apart and crumbles, gather up the pieces and firmly press together.


Store your bouncy ball in a Ziploc bag!


What’s Going On?

Silicones are water repellent, so you’ll find that food dye doesn’t color your bouncy ball. You’ll find silicone in greases, oils, hydraulic fluids, and electrical insulators.


The sodium silicate is a long polymer chain of alternating silicon and oxygen atoms. When ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is added, it bridges and connects the polymer chains together by cross-linking them.


Think of a rope ladder—the wooden rungs are the cross-linking agents (the ethanol) and the two ropes are the polymer chains (sodium silicate).


Safety information for Sodium Silicate: MSDS.


Questions to Ask


1. Before the reaction, what was the sodium silicate like? Was it a solid, liquid, or gas? What color was it? Was it slippery, grainy, viscous, etc.?


2. What was the ethanol like before the reaction?


3. How is the product (the bouncy ball) different from the two chemicals in the beginning?


4. Was the bouncy ball  the only molecule that was formed?


5.  Was this reaction a physical or chemical change?


Did you know? Silly putty is actually a mixture of silicone and chalk!


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Comments

88 Responses to “Bouncy Ball”

  1. Amanda Mcabee says:

    bloopers was funny

  2. Candyce Ovadal says:

    ok thanks

  3. No, it will not work with isopropyl (totally different molecule).

  4. Candyce Ovadal says:

    Can i use Isopropyl alcohol instead of ethyl alcohol?

  5. Here’s the info from the MSDS: Sodium silicate causes skin irritation, and contact with skin may result in redness, itching, irritation, burning sensation, swelling.

    When I do this experiment with kids, they always wear gloves.

  6. whiterabbit says:

    The MSDS says the Sodium Silicate is extremely hazardous in case of skin contact. Is it safe to let the kids touch the ball after the reaction?

  7. Look at the main supply list for this unit and you’ll see an order link.

  8. Nikki Ray says:

    where can you get sodium silicate?

  9. Linda Beckwith says:

    Can I make a “Lumin Disc”? If so how?

  10. Priscila Gonzalez says:

    this sounds so cool! I can’t wait to try it 😀 I easily forget things so I typed it down (is that a thing?) on notepad XD

  11. All chemicals have links to MSDS on our website so you can review it carefully, and you’ll find those with the experiment itself and/or on the shopping list.

  12. Laina Wilburn says:

    🙂 Smile tower 🙂 WHATT!
    🙂
    🙂
    🙂
    🙂
    🙂
    🙂
    🙂
    🙂
    :0

  13. Laina Wilburn says:

    Hi Aurora

    Are there any Warnings or Cautions about the Sodium Silicate or the Ethyl alcohol

    Thanks Chloe

  14. Laina Wilburn says:

    where can I get Sodium silicate

  15. Sharon Wu says:

    Thanks alot! 🙂

  16. Sharon Wu says:

    Thanks! 🙂

  17. Theresa Mary says:

    ”/o

  18. Theresa Mary says:

    🙂

  19. Sharon Wu says:

    Hi Aurora, where can we get sodium silicate solution?
    Zach :]

  20. Which? The bouncy ball (yes) or sugar sodium (never heard of it, but it sounds like salt and sugar mixed together? If so, then no – you must use sodium silicate and ethyl alcohol.)

  21. Karen Kennedy says:

    can i use it?

  22. Was there more to your question?

  23. Karen Kennedy says:

    would sugar sodium

  24. You’ll find the most economical store to purchase from in the shopping list. It’s for a couple different experiments, so you’ll find it in Units 3 and 8. In a pinch, you can get a Magic Rocks set and use the sodium silicate in the pouch that comes with the kit.

  25. Margarita Fountain says:

    Hi Aurora, is there any substitute for sodium silicate that would work work for this partifular project? And if there isn’t, then can you tell me some stores that I might be able to buy sodium silicate at. I really want to do this project! Please help.
    Sofia

  26. Food coloring is water based, so it won’t work with this experiment. You’ll have to find a food dye that is alcohol-based.

  27. Toni Lovejoy says:

    If you add food coloring will it ruin the process or will it just keep the color and still work?

  28. Sure, but you’d need to use different chemicals, like this one. The one I show you how to make is a little brittle, but that’s the nature of the chemicals used.

  29. Carey Clark says:

    Is there a way to make a bouncy ball that does not fall apart?

  30. Yes – I’ll bet that’s going to look really cool!

  31. Caroline Wood says:

    for the clear glue can i use clear glue with glitter in it?

  32. Martin Melody says:

    I loved the ball it was sooooo fun:)

  33. Anne Agah says:

    only two ingrediants? wow! That is cool!

  34. Yes, since sodium silicate is still in the mix, it’s best to wear gloves throughout the entire experiment.

  35. Lorelei Grecian says:

    Oh and you said to wear gloves while handeling silicate. Do we have to after we’ve made the bouncy balls? Just wondering.

  36. Lorelei Grecian says:

    Thats the problem… see we are moving and its going to be soon… so i don’t know if we will be gone before it gets here. 🙁
    I so want to do this experiement.

  37. I’m sorry you’re having trouble! Did you see the order link on Shopping list for Unit 3? You can click it and have it shipped right to you.

  38. Lorelei Grecian says:

    I asked the lady at the pharmacy and she said she never heard of sodium silicate. 🙁

  39. No – that’s salt. You need silicate in the compound.

  40. The shopping list has a direct order link… do you see it?

  41. Maeda Angela says:

    Does Sodium Chloride work?

  42. Maeda Angela says:

    Where can you Get Sodium Silicate

  43. No, I don’t think I know that one! Let me know what you find out! 🙂 (Be sure to use gloves when handling silicone).

  44. Dawn McDaniel says:

    Do you have a recipe to make the silly putty with silicone and chalk?

    We are loving the experiments! Thank you for putting this together and sharing it with us. Science is awesome!

  45. denisoncrew says:

    🙂

  46. Trinity Wasankari says:

    I think that the bouny ball was great thank you Aurora and i really enjoied the science things alot thank you!!!

  47. Karri Woods says:

    🙂

  48. Karri Woods says:

    Thank you sooooo much

  49. Yes, the alcohol content in beer, wine and whiskey is ethyl alcohol, and in a pinch you can use strong vodka in place of the ethyl alcohol. However the ethyl alcohol you get in the pharmacy section of the drug store also has kerosene mixed in with it so adults don’t drink this stuff right out of the bottle.

    Bottom line – you can experiment with both in your chemistry experiment, but don’t drink either one.

  50. Karri Woods says:

    my dad said that Ethyl Alcohol was a drinking alcohol

  51. Lorelei Grecian says:

    Thank you soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much 🙂

  52. No, the dye should not cause any problems for you.

  53. From your pharmacy, or you can click the link in the shopping list for this unit to order it online.

  54. Lorelei Grecian says:

    I only have popsicle sticks that are dyed, will it affect the bouncy ball? Or can I rinse the dye off the popsicle sticks?

    Thanks
    Raena Age: 10

  55. Lorelei Grecian says:

    I’m just wondering where you can get Sodium Silicate? :]

  56. Kris Smith says:

    This is really awesome!

  57. It’s not really rubber although it does share some properties with rubber, as I’m sure you’ve seen. The best way to think of it is to think of the sodium silicate as being long strands and the ethyl alcohol as being a “connector” that connects the two sides. This makes what is called a polymer. Polymers are long chains that repeat. Many proteins and nucleic acids are polymers. So, the big question… why does this polymer bounce while the others I just mentioned don’t. The answer has to do with the properties of silicon. Silicon, when mixed with other chemicals produces many products that have the characteristic of being bouncy because the bond between the silicon and oxygen are fairly flexible and can be made to move closer together or further apart.

  58. Kaelen Davis says:

    That is so cool! Does it form a sort of rubber or something else?

  59. Mary Thomas Jackson says:

    This sounds so cool!

    Charli-

  60. It’s not so much the ‘chemicals’ but what they make when combined together. If the substance you create has high elasticity, like rubber, then it will bounce. These two chemicals cross-link together to form a fishnet of molecules, which is why they globulate (is that a real word?) together to hold their shape. It’s not a true solid form, however, as you’ll find that the ball slowly turns into a pancake when left on the table as the fishnet slowly unwinds itself and the molecules slide past each other.

  61. How do the chemicles(when connected) bounce?

  62. I love all the vidios that you put up, they relly help me to understand what your teaching.Thanks!

  63. Our videos are flash, and currently flash is not supported by iOS devices (iPads, iPhone, etc), but I understand there might be an app you can get to be able to view flash files. We’re working on a solution, but since there are are over 700 videos on the site, we haven’t had the chance to upgrade all the players into a format that works with all mobile devices. I will keep you posted!

  64. Kristine Rhodes says:

    We live in an odd area that does not get traditional Internet. However we do get Internet through our iPhones. We would love it if your videos supported the iPhone so that we could view them! Is that a possibility for the future?

    Kristine

  65. Oops! You’re right. It’s 4 to 1 ratio of sodium silicate to ethyl alcohol, so you can use 4 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon OR 4 teaspoons and 1 teaspoon. Just be consistent! Sorry for the confusion!

  66. Helen Morton says:

    Just a logisitics question: Your video uses the word “teaspoon” in the measuring out the denatured alchol and the sodium silicate. However, your directions use the word “tablespoon”. Does that make a difference? Or do you just get a bigger bouncy ball with the tablespoon measurements? My guess is that it works with either teaspoon or tablespoon measurements…..Thank you.

  67. Really close… the thin stuff (alcohol) cross links up the strands of the thick stuff (silicate) to form more of a fish-net looking molecule. Kind of like when you give a ball of yarn to a kitten – the strands get all knotted and linked up into a large mass. 🙂 Scientists call the alcohol the “cross-linking agent” and the silicate is the “polymer”.

  68. You need to find an alcohol-based dye, not a water-based (which is what food coloring is).

  69. Michele Floyd says:

    I think that the ball bounces because the sodium silicate (the thick chemical) is so thick that when it mixes with the ethyl alcohol it can take a temporary shape that you form it into.

    — Liam (7th grader)

  70. TRACY RAYNOR says:

    How do you color a bouncy ball? I know food coloring doesn’t work, but is there a way to color it? Just wondering . . .
    Question formed by Skylar

    *-)

  71. TRACY RAYNOR says:

    Why does the ball bounce? What makes it bounce?
    Written by Skylar 😀

  72. This one doubles quite well.. so yes, you’ll get a BIGGER bouncy ball! 🙂 And you’re right – it’s not always a good idea to increase the quantities used – the reactions don’t always work the way you expect on larger scales.

  73. Michele Floyd says:

    what would happen if we doubled the quantity of the sodium silicate and the Ethyl alcohol? would it ruin the experiment or would it make a bigger bouncy ball? please write back.

    — Liam (7th grader)

  74. Hope Martin says:

    Thought I’d mention here too that I found the sodium silicate at a local drug store. When I asked them why they carried it they said because someone asked if they could get it. 😀

    Coloring: picked up some alcohol based inks (from the local craft store) to give coloring a try. Going to try the experiment twice: once without coloring and once with.

  75. They are called Lumin Discs – you can search for one online. They come in all kinds of colors, even small enough to wear on your clothing. 🙂

  76. Sophia Poli says:

    what is that green plazma looking thing behind you?? and where can i get one??

  77. Liz Downer says:

    The kids had fun making these. My 7 year old daughter even helped me out when mine didn’t turn out quite right. It kept falling apart. She stirred the popsicle stick in the liquid until it was harden and wrapped around the stick. Then we take the stick out, slide the clump off of the stick and then shape it in your hand. Works great! We filmed our own video to share with your family. Thanks!

  78. That’s an interesting idea – I didn’t think to mention this in the experiment. Yes, it’s a dried form of sodium silicate, so technically, it should work. Let me know how it goes – post it right here in the comment section for others to see! 🙂

  79. Susie Anderson says:

    Can desiccant silica gel be used in place of sodium silicate? Does it have the same makeup, but only in a dried form?

  80. Yes, you can. Just wash your hands when you’re done (always a good idea in chemistry!).

  81. Joshua Velez says:

    Can you touch the mixture and form the ball with bare hands?

  82. Yes, but you will need an alcohol-based dye, not a water-based dye (as is the case with food coloring), or the dye won’t dissolve in your solution.

  83. Denise Lambert says:

    Does this work with food coloring or something colorful? Just wondering…

  84. Michele Floyd says:

    We live off the road system in Nome Alaska. EVERYTHING has to be flown in. Where can I get Sodium Silicate? I tried the website, but they don’t ship outside of mainland US because they say they can only ship ground. (Not air) Any advice?

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