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GRASPing silly putty

Posted on 30 January 2017

As part of a Green Reactants and Sustainable Products (GRASP) project in the Green Chemistry Centre for Excellence (GCCE) to further embed green and sustainable chemistry within the curriculum, Dr Glenn, Hurst, Dr Avtar Matharu and Dr Brendan Garrett focused on practical chemistry; specifically, silly putty.

Silly putty is a common gel utilised at the primary, secondary and tertiary level as part of demonstrations, outreach and laboratory experiments ( However, it was found that the crosslinking agent borax poses a serious health hazard in that it may damage fertility and the unborn child.

Working with a team of undergraduate students as part of a third-year miniproject (including Nick Cox, James Pollard, Rebecca Jeffrey and Alex Bowes), the team developed a new research-led undergraduate experiment investigating the rheological properties of a green calcium-crosslinked alginate gel. Following development, this experiment was successfully trialled with the first cohort of Natural Sciences students as part of a new summer activity. Glenn, Avtar and Brendan have now published this work in the Journal of Chemical Education.

This serves as an excellent example of working with students as partners to innovate within our undergraduate programme.

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