Vanishing Styrofoam cup - In our vanishing Styrofoam Cup experiment, piece of Styrofoam will vanish. Is the magic? Or is it science? read on to discover out!

Styrofoam (polystyrene) is among the most complex and complicated materials on planet when it pertains to decomposition. Styrofoam is actually a form of plastic. That is make of up atom that space bonded come each various other strongly and also can take it anywhere between 500 come 1 million year to decompose. Believe it or not, there is a way to make an entire cup of Styrofoam vanish in a matter of seconds. How can this be possible? It no involve fire, for this reason there’s no acrid smoke exit (polystyrene to produce harmful fumes once it is burned). Although it seems choose magic, it is just some yes, really cool science. Knowing the science behind what takes place in our melt Styrofoam experiment is quite darn awesome!

Experiment Materials

Acetone* Styrofoam Cup Pie key Adult Supervision *Use acetone in a fine ventilated area or outdoors!

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Experiment Videos



In a well-ventilated area, covering the bottom the a pie plate with a slim layer of acetone.

You are watching: What causes styrofoam to disappear into acetone


Carefully ar the Styrofoam cup right into the center of the pie plate.


Stand earlier and observe. Clock in amazement as the cup disappears!

How Does that Work

Styrofoam is in reality the common, registered trademark surname for a material dubbed “polystyrene.” products manufactured v polystyrene began in the 1930s. In the 1960s, it was very first used in coffee cups since its insulating properties. (This means it keeps your warm drinks warm by slowing warm transmission. It also keeps her cold drinks cold.)

Polystyrene is the long-chain molecule the the monomer (smaller molecule) styrene. Polystyrene is a polymer the is actually a form of plastic. The acetone is a solvent that easily breaks under the polystyrene, releasing the little air pockets trapped inside and also leaving very little residue at the end. In various other words, once you integrate Styrofoam and also acetone, the polystyrene will totally dissolve! 

As a scientific research teacher, science enthusiast or one environmentalist, girlfriend are mindful of the negative effects the Styrofoam has actually on our atmosphere and the space that that takes up in landfills. So why not just use acetone come dissolve waste polystyrene? difficulty solved, right? no quite! Unfortunately, acetone presents its own environmental and energy consumption problems so melting Styrofoam in huge vats that acetone is no a good solution to the polystyrene diversity in landfills. 

Take that Further

Another spin on the Styrofoam and also acetone melting impact is our vanishing Peanuts experiment! 


If you had actually a blast through this melting Styrofoam experiment, there’s an ext fun science tasks at Steve Spangler Science. Even if it is you’re in search of at-home science experiments or fun, memorable activities for a STEM society or science class, you will do it find good ideas here. Examine out our virtual experiment library because that dozens of science experiments that will blow her mind — and demonstrate the values of chemistry, food science, physics and also more! authorize up for our Steve Spangler scientific research Club, too, because that monthly all-in-one kits!

Safety Information

WARNING: please follow every one of the manufacturer’s safety precautions detailed on the container that acetone. Acetone solvent is really flammable. Save away from every flames. 

Real-World Application

Currently about 200 million cubic feet every year the polystyrene “loose fill” (packaging material) is offered in the unified States; Styrofoam is approximated to to fill up around 30% of landfills globally. Although some companies shot and reuse the pack material, most of the polystyrene is disposed of in landfills everywhere the world. As students of science, we require to very closely examine such products and ask these questions: how is the product made and also what wake up to it after it is used? among the properties of polystyrene loose fill is that it does no compress easily. If this is advantageous when make the efforts to defend something from gift crushed or broken, it poses a trouble when trying to dispose of that in a landfill. As a result, environmentally aware companies search a equipment to these problems. 

One such systems is dubbed Eco-Foam loosened fill. Eco-Foam gives both the ease of use and also the cushioning the polystyrene, yet gives us many other re-use or disposal alternatives for the future. It likewise readily decomposes in water and can be re-used because that your very own packages. It can likewise be disposed the by placing it into your compost pile, watering it right into your lawn or washing it down the sink.

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Eco-Foam is made nearly entirely indigenous an annually renewable resource: corn. The remaining ingredient is a water-soluble organic polymer called “polyvinyl alcohol.” This organic polymer is make from carbon, hydrogen and also oxygen — friend know, the building blocks the life. Once polyvinyl alcohol is exposed come water, naturally arising bacteria feeding on this necessary polymer. Under wet conditions, the bacteria will use the starch (which is likewise composed that carbon, hydrogen and also oxygen) and polyvinyl alcohol as food to start the bicycle of life again.

Many civilization feel that the answer come our heavy waste trouble is recycling. When this an approach will walk a long way to aid our solid waste problems, the is not the entirety solution. One great suggestion is to use as little of the product as possible. Secondly, it renders sense to usage a organic product (instead of a artificial product) the will breakdown when we space finished using it. We must remember how to reuse!