They’re like modern day alchemists, transforming matter into virtually anything you could imagine. I’m Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. Daniel Savin is an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.
DS: Material science is essentially as it says the study of different types of materials. And those materials could be different kinds of plastics, they could be different kinds of metals they could be different kinds of woods it’s just all about the study of how materials and things interact with other things and those other things could be different kinds of materials they could be humans it could be animals it could be organisms. And what we’re trying to do in my laboratory is study different plastics and how they could be used in different kinds of sporting materials.
JM: In Dan Savin’s lab, materials scientist Olivia McNeer is experimenting with a slimely looking solution of polymers, long chains of molecules.
OM: So these polymers that are in solution can swirl around nice and free. But if I add something that’s gonna link these chains together, I can see that the properties will begin to change. Now what’s going on is that the solution is getting a little thicker. That means that these chains are starting to entangle.
JM: And with a little help from another chemical those entangled polymer chains start to change from an amorphous slime into something you might be able to mold into a shape.
OM: I may be interested in using it for a material that would make a great ball or for a kid to play with or maybe for a shoe. Anywhere you would use rubber you can use this.
JM: So using the tools of materials science, what sort of sports equipment could you dream up? That’s the question we’re asking in this year’s KSC our free nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th graders; check out kidsciencechallenge.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.