Google+ Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas: Science Fun: The Dissolving Packing Peanut Experiment

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Science Fun: The Dissolving Packing Peanut Experiment

Yesterday, we shared how we got crafty with packing peanuts and made some snowflakes. Today, I want to share a simple but fun science experiment we conducted with some of our packing peanuts.

The Dissolving Packing Peanut Experiment

After seeing the effect water had on the packing peanuts the Lil Divas were curious about how they would effected by other things so we decided to experiment.

We used 4 solvents to conduct our experiment: room temperature tap water, vinegar, acetone (nail polish remover) and (boiling) hot water - I heated the water up to boiling in our microwave before starting the experiment.

Before we began I asked the Lil Divas to hypothesize which solvent/liquid would dissolve the packing peanut the fastest. The following were the order in which the Lil Divas hypothesized the packing peanuts would dissolve in order from fastest to slowest - hot water, acetone, vinegar and tap water at room temperature.

To begin the experiment we simultaneously dropped one (1) packing peanut into each individual container and observed what happened.

Upon the initial dropping of the packing peanut into the containers we noticed that the hot water had an immediate reaction - melting some of the packing peanut instantly. The one in acetone visibly shrunk in size but stayed intact. The packing peanuts in the water and vinegar seemed to puff up but not much else happened immediately.

The Lil Divas decided they wanted to stir the packing peanuts so we got four (4) spoons (one for each solvent) and they gently stirred each one. We waited 3 minutes (timed on our kitchen timer) and then took another peek. The packing peanuts in the water and vinegar had visibly begun to dissolve and the reactions were nearly identical. The packing peanut in the acetone continued to shrink but stayed intact. The packing peanut in the hot water had almost completely dissolved and only a little remained in the container.

After an additional 2 minutes (total elapsed time = 5minutes) we took one final look at our packing peanuts and noted our results. The hot water dissolved the packing peanut the fastest and it was nearly all gone. There was very little trace of the original packing peanut left in the container. The acetone shrunk the packing peanut considerably but it still remained in the container and was intact. The packing peanuts that had been in the tap water and vinegar had considerably dissolved but we could still see the remnants in the container.

Have you experimented with packing peanuts? What did you try? I'd love to know.



  1. What a neat experiment! Pinning this to do next time I we have packing peanuts.

  2. Love, love, love! We've been dissolving things around here, too. We just changed the temperature. I love how you used different solvents {and the fact that you added the vocab word in there}.

    1. Thanks Trisha! I try to use the correct vocab as much as possible to at least expose the girls to it. Who knows, some of it may even stick :)

  3. Did you have pure acetone or non acetone polish remover? Acetone should have dissolved it immediately. That's what happened time and again with ours,and is what's expected.

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  5. Watch out for TWO types of packing peanuts. Styrofoam packing peanuts, the old type, DO appear to dissolve in acetone (actually the air is just removed, a small residue of polymeric goo is left in the acetone). Hundreds of them seem to disappear in just 1/4 cup of acetone. The more modern starch-based packing material will dissolve in water, hot or cold (faster in hot), but not in acetone.


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