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  • AutorenbildUlrike Schimpf

Teaching radical polymerization

Aktualisiert: 24. Nov. 2020

I enjoyed to volunteer in the Introductory and technical chemistry course at KTH. The students were learning how to produce plastic by synthesis chemistry. (11/2020)

I was happy to be able to jump back for some hours into chemistry work, feeling my roots as chemist, and teach experimental work in a chemical laboratory. It made me excited, also to be responsible for a herd of students dealing with toxic chemicals. Forgive me, but I have some reminders from my studies as chemist and my school time were few persons were not afraid of using chemicals in excess and to mix everything up with unknown outcome. As I experienced, the Swedish students were also excited about to create plastic from liquids and powder. We used styrene and AIBN to initiate a radical polymerization with combination as termination. As fun part, we added food color or a copper-complex to color the formed powder to melt. After producing the white powder (polystyrene) by synthesis, dissolution, precipitation and filtration, the students could add their favorite color and melt the powder in aluminium foil to form a figure of their own choice. It was interesting to see that the most patient and cautious students, questioning each step, produced the highest yield of plastic. Chemistry rocks!

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