The Leak-Proof Bag - Science Trick
Polymer chains work together to prevent water from leaking out of a bag.
Quick, call a plumber… we've sprung a leak! Hopefully this isn't a phrase heard very often in your house, but when you tell people that you'll be putting pencils through a water-filled bag, that might be another story. With the Leak-Proof Bag experiment, we'll show you how you can stick a bunch of pencils right through a bag of water without spraying water all of the kitchen table. The secret isn't sorcery, it's just the chemistry of polymers.
- Sharpened pencils
- Zipper-lock plastic bags
- Paper towels
Before we let you loose on demonstrating this experiment for an audience, it would probably be best to practice this over a sink, outside, or at a friend's house. Just don't make Mom mad by allowing her to come home to water puddles in the living room.
- If you have your pencils, make sure they are sharpened to a point. The sharper, the better. If they're already sharpened… shucks… move to step 2!
- Fill a zipper-lock bag between 1/2 and 3/4-full with water. Cold, warm… it doesn't particularly matter.
- Now for the fun part, ask your audience what would happen if you tried to push one of these pencils through the water-filled bag? Odds are that you'll have more than one look of fear or skepticism. You might even have some people running for their ponchos and galoshes.
- Here comes the real scary part! Hold the pencil in one hand and the top of the bag in your other hand. Slowly, but firmly, push one of the sharpened pencils through one side of the bag. Weird… no water came gushing out!
Push the pencil through the other side of the bag, too. Nothing happens. Sweet!
NOTE: Do not, I repeat, do not push the pencil all the way through either side of the bag. As soon as the eraser gets past the bag, you'll have a big, wet mess on your hands… er… floors.
- From here, you can keep demonstrating your science "spear-it" by repeating this feat with the other sharpened pencils!
- Once you're finished, hold the bag over a sink and remove the pencils. The water will come pouring out of the holes.
Take It Further!
How does it work?Despite what it looks like, the zipper-lock bag isn't covered in a magical sealant that blocks leaks. Well… not exactly. Plastic bags like these are made out of our favorite kind of materials, polymers! Polymers are long chains of individual molecules, called monomers. (See that? Mono = one. Poly = many. Mers = molecules.) When you puncture these bags with a sharpened pencil, you're essentially separating polymer chains without breaking them. The long chains of molecules than squeeze in tight around the surface of the pencil preventing any sort of leak. Polymers continue to prove an indispensable part of life.
Leak Proof Bag
December 25th, 2012
Click the thumbnail below to see the video.
Awesome over assistant principals's head
Michelle - December 27, 2012
I have done this experiment several times but the moat recent time I did this was at a science night for our school and I asked the assistant principal to assist. He sat in a chair and I pierced the bag with several pencils over his head. Not a single leak. (although all the kids were hoping for some leakage). It was great fun and he was a great sport for being part of the experiment.
Quick and Easy
Rachel - August 15, 2012
This experiment is fabulous because it is a quick and easy way to pique the students' interest in science and the scientific method. Imgoing to do this as our first science lesson (third grade) to prove that 1) science is fun 2)Its good to make hypothesis and its ok to be wrong 3)have an opened mind in science and in learning. (plus we can introduce science words)
ashley - November 11, 2010
i actually found this experiment pretty cool!!!!