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Diaper Dissection

based on 23 ratings
Author: Nancy Rogers Bosse
Grade
4th – 6th grades
Difficulty of Project
Moderate
Cost:

Less than $20.00 (if you’re able to find some friends or family members who will donate a diaper, the cost will be greatly reduced)

Safety Issues
None
Material Availability
Easily purchased from a grocery store
Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project:

One hour to conduct the tests and collect the data; one day to write up your findings; one day to prepare the science fair display.

Objective

Determine which disposable diaper holds the most fluid.

Materials and Equipment

  • 8 disposable diapers (two each of four different brands)
  • 12 small re-closeable plastic bags
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Warm water
  • Sink
  • ¼-cup measuring cup

Background Information

Since their invention in 1950, disposable diapers have provided a convenient alternative to cloth diapers. The polymers absorb liquid while the layered construction pulls the wetness away from the body.  

In this investigation, different brands of diapers are tested and compared. 

Terms, Concepts, and Questions to Start Background Research

Terms:
polymers: a compound made up of many smaller molecules absorbent: able to take in liquid 
Concepts:

Disposable diapers are made up of layers of absorbent polymers. Disposable diapers provide comfort and convenience. They also provide an ecological problem as to how and where they should be disposed.  

Research Questions:
  • How do disposable diapers absorb so much fluid?
  • How much fluid do disposable diapers absorb?
  • Do different brands of disposable diapers absorb different amounts of fluid? 

Experimental Procedure

  1. Gather the necessary materials.
  2. Cut a 5 x 5 inch square piece from the center of one of each of the disposable diapers.
  3.  Dissect each diaper. Locate the polymer. Put the different layers of the diaper into small re-closable bags to be used in your science fair display. Label the plastic bags.
  4. At a sink, pour ¼-cup of warm water into the center of one of the diapers. Gently rock the diaper until all the water is absorbed. Continue adding warm water ¼-cup at a time until the water spills out of the diaper. Record the results. 
  5. Repeat Step 3 with each of the disposable diapers.  
  6. Compare the results of all the diapers. 

Bibliography

Articles:

“What is the crystalline substance found in disposable diapers?” at howstuffworks.com 

“Diaper Wars” from Consumer Reports vol. 63 pp. 53-55, 1998. 
Websites:
Steve Spangler Science at www.stevespanglerscience.com/experiment/00000057 (The Baby Diaper Secret)
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