Make Water A Gel

sodium polyacrylate forms a gel with water

This demo uses sodium polyacrylate, a super absorbing polymer found in diapers, to turn water into a gel. The sodium polyacrylate has carboxylate anion portions and sodium cation portions. Water is attracted to the sodium ions, thus it enters the polymer through osmosis and the polymer swells and the sodium carboxylate is ionized. The anionic carboxylates on the polymer repel each other, causing the polymer to swell, trap the water, and form a gel. When NaCl is added the increase of electrolytes (ions) in the water shield the repulsion of the carboxylates, thus contracting the polymer and expelling the liquid water.

M&M Color Wheel

M&Ms in water, candy coating dissolving

When M&M’s are placed in water, the outer shell, which is made of sugar, dissolves. The sugar moves from a place of high concentration (the M&M) to a place of low concentration (the water away from the M&M). When the sugar shell dissolves and moves outward, it takes the layer of food dye with it. When more than one M&M is placed into a petri dish the colors do not mix because the concentration of sugar at the interface is approximately the same. Also, around the bottom of the M&M water appears cloudy because the sugar that is dissolved is more dense than the water, so it sinks.