MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What is the monomer in Silly Putty?

Date: Mon Feb 23 23:46:47 1998
Posted By: Jeremy Starr, Grad Student, Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 887336750.Ch

Hi Carrie,

	There are two ways to make silly putty. The home version is to dilute some
elmer's glue (common white glue) to twice its volume with water then treat
it with borax. The mixture will then form a polymeric substance like silly
putty. I tried this prep, myself, several years ago and found the product
to be less than satisfactory plus it lost its elasticity after a few hours.
The real stuff is made in a similar way except that silicone oil is
substituted for the water/glue mixture. Silicone oil, itself, is a linear
polymer made up of dimethylsiloxy subunits (monomers):


The borax causes cross polymerization of the silicone oil polymer chains to
give the sticky flexible material known as silly putty. Searching keywords
"silly putty" on any search engine will turn up a number of hits that will
lead you to specific recipes for the real and home versions of silly putty
as well as other interesting information about the stuff. 

Good luck!


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