Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Mahmoud. Mahmoud Wonders, “Why is bubblegum sticky ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Mahmoud!
Today's Wonder of the Day features a substance that's both chewy and sweet. Most kids consider it to be a real treat. Whatever you do, though, don't swallow it! It's not something you eat. What are we talking about? Bubble gum, of course!
If you're a fan of bubble gum, you know how much fun it can be to chew. Sooner or later, though, the fun comes to an end as the gum slowly loses its flavor. What do you do then? We hope you spit it out into the trash. Unfortunately, many pieces of bubble gum end up on sidewalks or stuck to the bottom of school desks.
Have you ever accidentally stepped in bubble gum on the sidewalk? If so, you know what a sticky situation that turns out to be. As you try to rub the gum off your shoe, it stretches and sticks to your hands and new places on your shoe. Even using cleaners doesn't seem to help remove the sticky residue, which can stick around for several days.
Exactly what makes bubble gum so sticky? Let's take a look at the science behind the materials that go into bubble gum.
Each type of bubble gum has its own unique formulation. However, there are common types of ingredients found in all types of bubble gum. For example, the sweet taste usually comes from a variety of sugars and flavoring.
The elastic, chewable properties of bubble gum come from the other ingredients, such as polymers (including elastomers), plasticizers (such as natural or paraffin waxes), and resins that act as stabilizers. These ingredients give bubble gum its texture and elasticity.
Unfortunately, they also give bubble gum its sticky nature. The polymers in bubble gum are hydrophobic, which means they repel water. The watery saliva in your mouth dissolves the sugars and flavorings, but you can keep chewing because the polymers don't get dissolved.
While these polymers repel water, they're attracted to oil. When they come into contact with oily surfaces, such as sidewalks, soles of shoes, fingers, and hair, they form a strong bond and stick tight. The long chains of chemical bonds within polymers make cleaning up even more difficult, because they tend to stretch rather than break.
One day, though, sticky bubble gum messes may be a thing of the past. Scientists have developed new bubble gum polymers that are hydrophilic, meaning they break down in the presence of water and will deteriorate naturally over a short period of time.
Will new non-stick gums be beneficial? Some city officials certainly hope so. Officials in London, England, have estimated that it costs English taxpayers nearly four million dollars every year to pay for the removal of used gum from public places, such as subway trains and stations.