Preparation of a poly(vinyl acetate) latex and testing of its capacity to act as a glue was found to be a very successful way to introduce students not only to the chemistry of free radical polymerization in emulsion, but to the scientific method. With a high level of success, students prepared latexes according to a number of recipes containing varying amounts of poly(vinyl alcohol), then developed their own testing procedures in groups. Results were passed on to successive groups of students, allowing testing procedures to be optimized and hypotheses about the influence of chemical structure on adhesion to be developed over time within a "model research community". Responses from the students involved have been overwhelmingly positive, and we feel that the exercise has encouraged student interest in a scientific career as well as imparting information about important aspects of chemistry rarely covered in secondary or early undergraduate courses.

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Last edited: Friday September 10, 2010

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