Extreme Science: Penny Shine

What you will need:

  • Styrofoam cup
  • Pie pan or drip pan
  • Acetone or finger nail polish remover (containing acetone)
  • Safety glasses
  • Adult supervision


1. Place your Styrofoam cup in your pie pan or drip pan

2. While wearing your safety glasses, slowly pour the acetone (or fingernail polish remover containing acetone) over the Styrofoam cup.

What is going on?

What we typically know as Styrofoam cups are actually Expanded Polystyrene. “Styrofoam” is actually a brand name but has become a household name that we are familiar with. Expanded Polystyrene plastic is a polymer. When Polystyrene plastic is used to make Expanded Polystyrene cups (Styrofoam cups) gasses are created and get “stuck” in between the Polystyrene particles which is part of what makes styrofoam cups such great insulators for hot beverages. This is also why it is called “Expanded” Polystyrene – since the trapped gasses cause it to expand. When we pour acetone over a styrofoam cup, the bonds of this polymer are broken releasing the trapped gasses changing it from “Expanded” Polystyrene back to just plain old Polystyrene plastic!

Try this:

Purchase some of the eco friendly starch based packing peanuts that are water soluble. Since they will dissolve in water, you can get the edges wet and stick them together to create all kinds of structures. Just remember, since they are water soluble, your structure is also water soluble!

Radical Rick

Extreme Science



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