Properties of Polymers

By observing the properties of these samples, students can compare and contrast the properties of polyvinyl chloride, polythene, and polystyrene in their various forms. 

Curriculum Notes 

This activity was designed for a class on green product design, but it could be useful in any chemistry class that deals with polymers.

Lead Time 
One day of lead time is required for this project.

The difference between high-density and low-density polyethylene illustrates the effect of differing composition of the polymer itself - such as varied chain length, branching, and cross-linking. The different forms of PVC reflect the addition of other substances - plasticizers. And the two forms of polystyrene exhibit the effect of differing manufacturing processes. 


Each student kit contains:

  • 1 HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) bag
  • 1 LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) bag
  • 1 piece of an HDPE milk jug
  • 1 segment of HDPE flexible tubing
  • 1 piece of rigid PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) sheet
  • 1 piece of flexible PVC sheet
  • 1 rigid PVC pipe coupler
  • 2 pieces of different size and thickness flexible PVC tubing
  • 1 roll of PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene - Teflon) pipe thread tape
  • 1 rigid polystyrene cup
  • 1 polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) cup
  • 1 pair of scissors

© Copyright 2012 Email: Randy Sullivan, University of Oregon Chemistry Department and UO Libraries Interactive Media Group