Plastic materials are extremely versatile and an ever-present part of everyday life. The ability to be moulded and a tremendous range of other useful properties, have made plastic materials almost universal.

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   Description of the Experiment   

The visitor can select which of the investigations to try after reading the introduction.

  • Transparency: The visitor can turn the wheel by hand to move each plastic in front of the photograph. The transparency is evident to the visitor.

  • Electrical Conductivity: Visitors can change the samples easily from the tray mounted below the circuit and insert them into a slot. If the material conducts a buzzer will sound.

  • Flexibility: The visitor can press each sample and determine immediately its flexibility.

  • Mouldability: The visitor simply can examine the samples and use the flaps to discover information about them.

The experiments last up to five minutes.


Some plastic materials are better used where transparency is important, in this case polystyrene or polymethylmethacrylate. Which is used depends also on the other properties (ca it be moulded well, for example).

Most people expect that plastics are good insulators of electricity, but not all are. The loaded polythene will conduct electricity.

Flexibility is important and in this case the polypropylene is the most flexible. The properties of plastics can be altered to some extent to suit the product, but you could not make stacking chairs from polystyrene for example.

All plastics can be moulded. Some, like polystyrene (not used here), can take precise detail from the mould, but the ease with which many copies can be produced without using much energy is one of the key properties of plastics.