MadSci Network: Other

Re: How can I make paper towel testing scientific?

Date: Tue Feb 1 11:01:57 2005
Posted By: Gregory Fike, Grad student, Paper Science & Chemical Engineering
Area of science: Other
ID: 1105496073.Ot

Thanks for the question, Libby and Michelle. I’m glad that you want to make your project as “scientific” as possible. Basically, the goal of science-based project is to make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

There are several ways to compare different brands. Companies that make paper towels have to make comparisons among brands all the time. A good comparison between two brands is to pick a standard amount of paper towel to use. You could base this on cost, size or weight of paper towel.

For size, simply use the same size paper towel sheet from both brands for each of your experiments. That way, the results would be normalized to a specific size sheet (for example: 6 inches by 9 inches – you will probably have to cut some of the sheets to a smaller size). I would use this method when comparing the strength properties of the paper towels.

It would also work to measure the absorbency of the same size sheets to see which one absorbs more liquid when both are the same size. For the absorbency, I would also try to use the same weight of paper towel and see which holds more water.

The third way to do these experiments would be to figure out how much each paper towel costs and determine which the best value is. This way, you will be able to find out which has the best absorbency or strength per dollar. For this test, absorbency would probably work better than strength since the strength of the paper towel will depend on the size of the sheet.

To find the cost of each sheet, simply take the cost of the roll and divide that by the total number of sheets in the roll. After you do the absorbency test on each of the sheets (use the sheet as it comes off the roll, without cutting it down) divide this absorbency value by the cost per sheet. This way, you will have the absorbency in units of amount of water per dollar (for example: milliliters per dollar).

I hope this helps with your project. I previously answered a question about measuring the strength of paper towels here, which might help with your experiments. Good luck.

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