Is it true that milk stored in plastic is not as healthy as milk in cardboard co…

Is it true that milk stored in plastic is not as healthy as milk in cardboard containers due to radiation?

Probably. HDPE (high density polyethylene) allows blue and ultraviolet light to strike the milk, degrading some of its nutrient molecules. It isn’t radiation from the plastic but rather the sunlight that the plastic doesn’t keep out of the milk. Adding an absorbing chemical to the plastic would help, but it would create an amber plastic (like amber medicine bottles; which are colored for this same reasons). If we could get used to having amber plastic, we would probably be better off. However, people seem to tolerate amber orange juice jugs but not amber milk jugs.

What chemical reactions cause the basic atoms to form different molecules and, t…

What chemical reactions cause the basic atoms to form different molecules and, therefore, different polymers?

Covalent bonds are very strong and very directional (meaning that they tend to arrange the atoms at specific angles with respect to one another). Once a molecule has formed, the covalent bonds usually prevent it from rearranging at all but the highest temperatures. Much of the field of organic chemistry is devoted to the problems of controlling the formation of covalent bonds. Very subtle reactions are used to replace one atom with another or with a specific group of atoms. The only real control that the organic chemist has is energetics, dynamics, and statistics. By energetics, I mean that objects tend to follow paths that reduce their potential energies as quickly as possible so that molecules will undergo reactions that reduce the overall potential energies as quickly as possible. If you chose the right chemicals, you can use this energetic control to determine the final molecules. By dynamics, I mean that the reaction pathways are also influenced by issues of motion (inertia, momentum, etc.) so that some energetically favorable reactions may not form because inertia and momentum makes it hard for them to occur. By statistics, I mean that reactions that increase the order of the molecules tend to be rather rare. Nature is always becoming more disordered so that a reaction that brings more order to the universe is unlikely to occur. When you mix chemicals together, they are unlikely to react to form a complete Faberge Egg, complete with a miniature winter scene inside. These different reaction issues can be used together or separately to manipulate atoms into a specific molecule. Usually some of the molecules produced in a synthesis are imperfect and must be separated from the desired molecules. So most organic synthesis projects involve many reaction and purification steps.

What is plastic explosives made of?

What is plastic explosives made of?

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that they are plasticized materials (polymer molecules and softening chemicals) in which either the polymer molecule or the plasticizer or both are explosives. Actually, I just looked it up and found that it is based on RDX (a nitrated form of hexamethylenetetramine). The RDX is mixed with oils, waxes, and plasticizers to make a stiff putty. That being the case, it isn’t really based on polymer molecules so that the name “plastic” refers more to its ability to assume different shapes at will.

Why do some glues dry faster than others?

Why do some glues dry faster than others?

Some glues literally “dry,” since they contain a plasticizer chemical that evaporates to leave a firmer plastic. Other glues polymerize directly during the gluing process. For the glues that dry by evaporating plasticizer, the choice of plasticizer is critical. Water leaves relatively slowly compared to volatile organic solvents such as toluene or acetone. That is why water-based white glue dries more slowly than organic-based plastic cement. But the glues that polymerize during the gluing process (they “cure” rather than “dry”) have a broad range of speeds. Some of those glues polymerize very rapidly (e.g. superglues and 3-minute epoxies) and some go much slower (normal epoxies). In general, slower glues produce stronger materials because they contain long polymer molecules. The fast curing glues form too many short polymer molecules and are not as tough.

Why is it so expensive to recycle plastic?

Why is it so expensive to recycle plastic?

Different plastics are handled differently for recycling. Thermosets, such as rubber in tires, cannot be melted and cannot be recycled. Only thermoplastics can be melted for true reuse. There are 6 common thermoplastics that are recycled. These are numbered 1 through 6 on their bottoms. Objects made from one of these plastics can be collected together, melted, and then reformed into new useful objects. Unfortunately, the melted and reformed plastic isn’t as pure as the original. The plastics manufacturers would rather clean up petroleum into petrochemicals and then make pure plastics than start with plastic objects, clean them, and reuse them. Because the recycler can’t control what was in the plastic objects, these objects cannot be used for critical applications such as food containers or plumbing. Thus most recycled plastic is used for less profitable applications. If the recycler could be absolutely sure that the plastic hadn’t been contaminated, some of it could be reused very easily. Plastic milk jugs could be reformed into plastic milk jugs over and over again.

How do covalent bonds work?

How do covalent bonds work?

When two atoms form a covalent bond, their total energy is reduced by their proximity. It thus takes energy to separate them. If that energy isn’t available, they will cling to one another indefinitely. The two ways in which they lower their total energy by being close are (1) electrostatic attraction and repulsion and (2) lower kinetic energy. Two atoms experience both attractive and repulsive forces as they approach one another. Their positively charged nuclei repel one another, their negatively charged electrons repel one another, but their nuclei attract their electrons. The nuclei never get very close and the electrons manage to stay relatively far apart, too. The dominant effect is an attraction between the electrons and the two nuclei. The result is a net attraction. The nearby atoms are pulled toward one another by these electric forces. The lower kinetic energy comes about because of quantum effects. The electrons travel about the nuclei as waves. When the atoms are far apart, the electrons must orbit their individual atoms. Because they are then confined to small domains, they must have short wavelengths. These waves must be short enough to fit properly into their small confines. Short wavelength objects have high kinetic energies (e.g. short wavelength light is x-rays and gamma rays). But when the atoms are touching, the electrons can spread out between both atoms. Their wavelengths increase and their kinetic energies diminish. These two effects (lowered electrostatic potential energy and lowered kinetic energy) reduce the total energy when the two atoms touch. The result is the covalent bond.

How does glue get objects to stick to it? Do molecules in the objects bind with …

How does glue get objects to stick to it? Do molecules in the objects bind with molecules in the glue?

Ideally, the glue would form strong covalent bonds with the material and then form countless strong bridges from one object to another. Unfortunately, getting the glue to form such strong bonds with a surface is rarely possible. Instead, the glue forms weaker hydrogen bonds or van der Waals with the surface and is not so firmly attached. The glue’s polymer molecules may also extend into the surface, in cracks and fissures to form a more sturdy attachment. Clearly, surface preparation can help the gluing process. Glue will bind more effectively to a porous, rough surface than to a very smooth, impermeable one.