Probably the most viscerally satisfying thing you'll watch today

We could watch acetone devour styrofoam all. Day. Long.

Although, technically speaking, the acetone isn't devouring anything. Styrofoam is made of up countless interconnected styrene molecules that together make up a material known as polystyrene.


Probably the most viscerally satisfying thing you'll watch today

In the mid-20th Century, Dow Chemicals came up with a process that turns small, spherical polystyrene beads into a closed-cell foam structure that takes up way more space than the starting material. This end product is 98% air, but is still just a bunch of styrene molecules, linked together.

What the acetone does is weaken the interactions between the styrofoam's long polystyrene chains, releasing trapped air in the process. The result is a thick, gloopy mass of polystyrene in a pool of acetone. If you allow the acetone to evaporate, you wind up with a firm mass of polystyrene resin that is much less voluminous (and, as a result, much more dense) than the original styrofoam.

NB: This sytrofoam/acetone gloop is highly flammable, and is similar to napalm. If you try this at home, you want to be very, very careful.

ht Carrie!