Silly putty

The history of silly putty is quite amusing. In 1943 James Wright, an engineer, was attempting to create a synthetic rubber. He was unable to achieve the properties he was looking for and put his creation (later to be called silly putty) on the shelf as a failure. A few years later, a salesman for the Dow Corning Corporation was using the putty to entertain some customers. One of his customers became intrigued with the putty and saw that it had potential as a new toy. In 1957, after being endorsed on the "Howdy Doody Show", silly putty became a toy fad. Recently new uses such as a grip strengthener and as an art medium have been developed. Silly putt even went into space on the Apollo 8 mission.

The polymers in silly putty have covalent bonds within the molecules, but hydrogen bonds between the molecules. The hydrogen bonds are easily broken. When small amounts of stress are slowly applied to the putty, only a few bonds are broken and the putty "flows". When larger amounts of stress are applied quickly, there are many hydrogen bonds that break, causing the putty to break or tear.


  • Large flask of 55% Elmer's glue solution in water
  • Large flask of 16% sodium borate
  • Small styrofoam or Dixie cups
  • Wooden stir sticks
  • Food coloring
  • Zip lock bags
The Elmer's glue solution and the sodium borate are mixed in a 4:1 ratio. The procedure can be followed from the slime procedure above.