Styrofoam, a lightweight plastic used for packing materials and thermal insulation, dissolves in turpentine because the two substances have compatible molecular properties. Liquids dissolve solids when the forces holding the solid molecules together is less than the attraction between the liquids and solids. Styrofoam is a type of polystyrene into which air is injected during its manufacture; the air forms tiny bubbles surrounded by stiff walls of plastic. The tiny air bubbles lower the density of the material, making it very light.
Chemically, however, Styrofoam is still polystyrene, so liquids that dissolve polystyrene also dissolve Styrofoam. Turpentine is a volatile oil distilled from the resin of pine trees, having uses as a solvent and in traditional medicines; it has also served as a fuel for oil lamps and engines. Artists have employed turpentine as a paint thinner, as it dissolves oil-based paint. Turpentine is not a simple substance but rather a mixture of several different organic compounds including pinene.
The electrical polarity of molecules is important to understanding how one substance dissolves another. Some molecules, such as water, are more negative on one side than the other; this imbalance causes the negative parts to repel each other and attract the positive parts of other molecules.
On the other hand, some plastics, oils and other substances are nonpolar -- their molecules have roughly the same negative charges all around them, so their mutual attractions are weak. Turpentine contains nonpolar compounds, and polystyrene is also nonpolar. A solid object holds itself together through forces between atoms and molecules; to dissolve the object, the solvent produces its own forces that counteract those in the solid.
The molecules in the solid become more strongly attracted to the solvent than to each other, and the object disintegrates. When the solvent evaporates, the remaining molecules recombine into a solid. In the case of Styrofoam and turpentine, the solvent evaporates, releasing most of the air bubbles in the plastic foam into the ambient air and leaving behind a lump of solid polystyrene. Chicago native John Papiewski has a physics degree and has been writing since He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute.
What dissolves Styrofoam?
About the Author. Photo Credits. Copyright Leaf Group Ltd.Styrofoam is an ever-present waste material in modern society, being used to package everything from food to futons. With this in mind, [killbox] decided to have a go at recycling some styrofoam and putting it to better use.
The process starts by combining the EPS styrofoam with a solvent called D-limonene. This was specifically chosen due to its low toxicity and ease of use. The solvent liquifies the solid foam and the air bubbles are then allowed to make their way out of the solution. Evaporated organic solvents — limonene, toluene, acetone, etc. Anything organic in the atmosphere will be broken down by UV…eventually…they have little to add to the greenhouse effect tip — look at how much plain old water vapor does.
They are first and foremost toxic in one way or another to us, THAT is why one should try to minimalize their use. They break down, but continuously replenishing the source by evaporating solvents does have an effect because they are very powerful GHGs.
Is there anything special about it as an EPS solvent, as opposed to acetone? Limonene is also a non petroleum based organic solvent quite popular for cleaning commercial kitchens and the like. You are not alone. Lets face it… humans were just less fragile then. Now we have a whole generation afraid of the smoke from Solder Flux. Seems like the PS you would end up with would be a better product without the excess solvent. You could also feed your styrofoam to your pet mealworms.
I wonder what kind of scale you can use this method on? So far ive mostly worked with mostly clean EPS, but starting at the local maker faire a week or so ago, i started a vat of mixed, stuff, take out containers, peanuts, scraps of dirty dusty foam, and most of the crud just settles to the bottom, and if you mostly ladel out the goop and avoid the bottom i suspect it wont be any problem, and trapped under lemon oil its not going to stink much.
Dissolve it in a solvent. Pour into molds then put under vacuum to extract the solvent. The idea is to extend the working life of the paper fibre, to approximate heavy balsa. I have been devoting a lot of time to this lately. I use acetone. While acetone may not be as safe as limonene, it is a relatively safe substance to use with eye protection and ventilation, and not environmentally damaging.
Also, this can be cast onto flexible materials such as other plastics, with the effect being that it sticks to the other material when still a gel, but then peels off cleanly once it solidifies. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
By using our website and services, you expressly agree to the placement of our performance, functionality and advertising cookies. Learn more. Report comment. I honestly never considered melting EPS for this. Sounds like a handy process for some projects. Styrofoam cannot be washed very well, are you going to use new stock only? Or get some gasoline and dissolve enough EPS to make napalm. Leave a Reply Cancel reply.
Search Search for:.Soybean oil and other vegetable oils, and fats are classified as Lipids. They are triglycerides of high molecular weight fatty acids. The DOW is trying to eliminate the use of styrene as it is because it smells so bad and is very toxic hence the company is trying to resort to co-polymerization adding other monomers along with styrene in the polymerization process. Since you mentioned acetone which is a popular organic solvent that you can buy in the counters of Home Depot, Lowes, etc.
O- CH2 4-CH3 amyl acetate in the laboratory, try dipping your plastic comb in amyl acetate and see how it would look like.
Other acetates will dissolve styrofoam. Furthermore, Aliphatic Hydrocarbons liquidse. Incidentally, these are the major components of what you place in your gas tank. Where the prefix n stands for normal. Also, Aromatic Hydrocarbons will also dissolve styrofoam, e. Please do not touch these. They smell so bad and very toxic, too.
Di-ethyl ether, R-O-R', will probably dissolve styrofoam. Please note: I have not tried this one because ether evaporates so fast.
You can soak styrofoam in an enclosed bottle and see what happens. Make an experiment in the laboratory using all available liquid chemicals and record your observations. It will be fun to satisfy your curiosity. Fruits are sweeter and take less effort to arrange, generally, so I tend to eat more fruits. Unless were talking caned, but still, you usually heat up the veggies, so another vote for fruit.
What are examples of organic solvents that will dissolve styrofoam, similar to soybean oil?During these challenging times, we guarantee we will work tirelessly to support you. We will continue to give you accurate and timely information throughout the crisis, and we will deliver on our mission — to help everyone in the world learn how to do anything — no matter what. Thank you to our community and to all of our readers who are working to aid others in this time of crisis, and to all of those who are making personal sacrifices for the good of their communities.
We will get through this together. Updated: October 23, References. Styrofoam is the household name for EPS, a kind of plastic. To throw away Styrofoam, remove any recyclable pieces, then break down sheets or blocks into smaller bits you can put in your regular trash can. To recycle, make sure you have plain white Styrofoam marked with the triangular recycling symbol.
Remove any paper or card from the Styrofoam and recycle those. If you have large blocks of Styrofoam, break them down into smaller pieces before you put them in the trash.
Article Edit. Learn why people trust wikiHow. This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 17 references.
Learn more Explore this Article Throwing Away Styrofoam. Recycling Styrofoam. Reusing or Upcycling Styrofoam. Tips and Warnings. Related Articles. Article Summary. Method 1 of Remove any recyclable parts attached to the Styrofoam. Carefully look over your foam pieces for paper, cardboard, or glass. Set those pieces aside to recycle later. You can place them in your own recycling bin or take them to your local recycling center. Only items uncontaminated by food or medical use are recyclable.An appropriate topic for investigation by a middle school would be the effect of acetone on Styrofoam.
Acetone is a volatile and highly flammable chemical. All experiments should be performed in a well-ventilated area, preferably under an exhaust hood, if available. Wear protective eye wear at all times. Dissolving polystyrene releases a gas in the form of bubbles that may cause the acetone to splash. If you splash any acetone on your skin or in your eyes, rinse thoroughly with water.
Styrofoam is the trademarked name of the plastic foam polystyrene. Polystyrene is not biodegradable and resists compression, making it a persistent part of landfill waste. When acetone and polystyrene are combined, the polystyrene dissolves.
For the investigatory project, the student could explore the effectiveness of acetone in reducing polystyrene for recycling. The student could measure how much polystyrene is dissolved by a particular volume of acetone. Each science fair project should be grounded in previous research. Research polystyrene and its effects on the environment at websites like the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Earth and Earth Resource foundation. In addition, look for previous experiments relating to polystyrene and acetone or other solvents.
For example, the University of South Carolina published an experiment on their website studying the effects of various solvents on polystyrene, including acetone. Dissolve Styrofoam cups in a series of ml beakers containing increasing volumes of acetone. For example, fill five beakers with 10 ml, 20 ml, 50ml, ml and ml of acetone. Place a stack of five 6-oz.
Styrofoam cups in each beaker and measure the amount of time it takes for the stack to dissolve. Continue adding one cup at a time to the acetone until the acetone no longer dissolves the cups. Repeat the experiment three to five times for each volume to get an average time and an average number of cups.Have you ever wondered what Styrofoam is? What does it take to dissolve it, and why does it happen?
Is it possible to completely break it down? We are here to answer your question. In the beginning, we would like to start by mentioning the influence the polystyrene brand name Styrofoam has on the environment. Polystyrene is one of those materials that surround us everywhere. Polystyrene is an inexpensive and hard plastic, and probably only polyethylene is more common in your everyday life. Things like computers, toothbrushes, hairdryers, TVs, and kitchen appliances are made of polystyrene.
Model cars and airplanes are made from polystyrene, as well as many other toys. Also, Styrofoam is used for packaging and insulation, and a lot of parts the inside of your car, like the knobs, keys, and so on.
Styrofoam is also used to make drinking cups and food containers — the hard plastic ones and also the soft foamy ones.
The worst thing is that plastic never breaks down; it just breaks up into smaller pieces. Every piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists in the world today!
We are writing about this just to remind you — our Dear Readers — that in our experiment, we are dissolving Styrofoam, but not breaking it down.
In our experiment, we answer the questions:. In the beginning, please take special precautions and use protective glasses, gloves, and clothes to protect your skin.
Firstly, you might think there is nothing to prepare, but we encourage you to try to paint the Styrofoam in one color — For example, you can paint heart-shaped block with red color.
Once dissolved, you will get a nice result. Secondly, pour acetone carefully into the glass container. We are using the rather flat glass container, so there is more space for our Styrofoam. As acetone is a very dangerous substance, please control the speed of pouring and protect your eyes and skin.
Thirdly, once we have our container prepared, please place the Styrofoam carefully into it. Our reaction starts immediately, and the Styrofoam starts to dissolve from the bottom. After a couple of seconds, it dissolves completely.
You are right! Styrofoam lost its structure because the air bubbles are released. Yes, these are the air bubbles trapped into the polymer material that keeps its shape. If you liked this part so far, please subscribe, so you can be the first to know about our interesting articles. It is more about a physical rather than a chemical reaction. The air in the foam evaporates, and because Styrofoam consists mainly of air, it completely loses its structure. The acetone breaks up the long chain of molecules, and the air goes away, hence the volume shrinks radically.
Acetone is a chemical that dissolves Styrofoam.
Some types of spray paint, as well as gasoline, will also dissolve Styrofoam. This is all our experiment is about. During the chemical reaction, the air bubbles are released and physical structure is destroyed.
How to Dissolve Polyurethane Foam
And you know what? A modern version, napalm-B, is now thickened using styrene derivatives. Faster-burning mixtures use more volatile fluids such as gasolinewhile slower-burning forms use fuel oil or a mix of gas and motor oil.View Full Version : How to get rid of styrofoam. Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil straightdope. Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.
I just visited a friend who sells machinery. One of his greatest headaches is getting rid of the large styrofoam blocks that things are packed in.
Does anyone know what is done with this stuff after the disposal guys pick it up? Or how it could be reduced in size to be more easily stored? It would be better if we could find a way to re-form it as insulation blocks, for instance. Thanks for any suggestions. It can be recycled. They crunch it up, melt it, and blow out as styrofoam again.
Ironically enough, it's actually more environmentally correct to recycle styrofoam than it is to recycle all the paper containers that MacDonalds switched to using so that people could recycle their food containers.
The industry was all set up to recycle the styrofoam, and nobody was bothering to do it I would imagine that has a lot to do with bulk. The stuff's hard to store, big to move, etc. Cut it into envelope-sized, half-inch-thick slabs and mail it out to junk mailers in their return envelopes.
Of course, apathy probably has a lot to do with it. So, any practical suggestions as to how we could re-use this stuff? There was a science teacher guy on David Letterman once who had a giant tank of styrofoam peanuts that he dumped a few cups of acetone on. They actually shrivelled up and disappeared and he claimed he didn't know what the problem was with styrofoam was because all you had to do was go around dumping acetone on it to get rid of it. I thought that was somewhat shortsighted reasoning considering what the water supply might look like in a couple years after dumping gallons of acetone into it.
Which begs the question, when someone sends you styrofoam peanuts, how do you tell it's not something else? Yeah, I've seen those starch packing peanuts too They made them so they're safe if animals decide to eat them.
They're not too bad with a little garlic. What kind of gases did dissolving styrofoam with acetone give off? Originally posted by Jeff41 Yeah, I've seen those starch packing peanuts too Actually, I believe they made them so that animals would eat them. That they would be disposed of by mixing with cattle feed for example. My cousins are farmers and they had loads of them, I think they were made from beet-husks or something similar.