Oil-Absorbing Polymer

4.5 based on 15 ratings

Updated on May 21, 2013

On the information level, this experiment serves to acquaint students with the current work in the field of polymer chemistry and some of the practical applications which have been developed in cleaning up our environment. A major step has been in the development of polymers which serve to remove crude oil and other varieties of oils, efficiently and effectively from waters contaminated by oil spills, thereby restoring our environment and safeguarding our wildlife.

On the level of experimenting, this science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing such as the importance of the use of a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, of data collection, of pictorial and graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings. They take on the role of scientists and in the process they learn to act as one.


How effective are polymers in cleaning up an oil spill and thereby protecting the environment?


  • A polymer designed specifically to remove oil from water
  • Motor oil
  • Hydraulic oil
  • 4 jars or beakers
  • 2 graduated cylinders
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Apron


  1. State the problem you are going to investigate in this science fair project.
  2. Create the data sheets you will use to record your observations.
  3. Gather all your materials.
  4. Put on your rubber gloves, safety glasses and apron.
  5. Prepare two samples of a mixture of motor oil and water and two samples of Hydraulic oil and water. Use the same amounts of water and oil in earth of the four samples. Note that the oils and water do not mix since oil is not soluble in water.
  6. Label one of each of the samples as a control. Label the other s as motor oil plus water and hydraulic oil plus water.
  7. Put your controls aside. Add the same amount of the polymer to each of the oil plus water samples as directed on the package.
  8. Observe the reactions.
  9. Compare the samples treated with the polymer with the controls.
  10. Record the results.
  11. Take photos of both the controls and the resultant products.
  12. Prepare your report and include all of the following: a clear statement of the problems, your hypothesis, list the materials used. Include the safety precautions taken. Describe the procedures used. Include all the data that were gathered. Include all charts. Formulate your conclusions. For dramatic value, you may include photos of the materials used or of you in the process of conducting this investigation as well as the results. Be sure to include a bibliography of sources you used. You may wish to assess what you did and describe what you would do differently if you were to do this project again.
Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled Ć¢Now That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Book."

How likely are you to recommend Education.com to your friends and colleagues?

Not at all likely
Extremely likely