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Shrinky Dinks were introduced in 1973. They had kids creating artwork. The art was on flexible sheets of plastic. You then popped them into the oven. They would magically shrink. They shrunk down to about 1/3 their original size. You could then play with what you made. But the entertainment value was all in coloring pictures. They were of your favorite cartoon characters. Then you watched them crinkle up in the oven. And then they mysteriously lie down flat again.
But magic isn't behind the toy's odd properties. The sheets of plastic you get in a Shrinky Dinks kit is polystyrene. It's the same stuff as recycled plastic #6. It is used for those clear clamshell containers. You often see them in cafeterias. Raw polystyrene is heated. This happens when it is made. It is rolled out into thin sheets. Then it is rapidly cooled. This helps it keep its shape.
The polymer chains within the polystyrene are bunched up by nature. They are randomly clumped together. They are heated. They are rolled. They are cooled. This process forces them to straighten out. They get into a more orderly shape. The polymers just want to bounce back. They want to go back to their disorderly shape. They are able to do this when the polystyrene is heated again. It's like when you pop a cookie sheet full of Shrinky Dinks into the oven. The term "magic" works pretty darn well. That is when it comes to marketing purposes.
Shrinky Dinks are moving beyond their status as a kid's toy. Scientists are finding practical applications for the fun sheets of plastic. That's according to a study. It's from Northwestern University. They are being used in the world of nanotechnology. It's a branch of science. It looks at the properties of materials. It looks at them on very small scales. Take glass as an example. It is usually used to insulate electronic material. It conducts electricity. That's on the nano scale. Metals like gold can appear red. They can also be blue. This branch of science is being used in the real world. It is used to make solar cells. It's used to make high-density displays. And it is used to make chemical sensors.
Scientists who want change the properties of certain materials work with nano-scale patterns. They are printed with those materials. The printing process takes time. It is very pricey. New printing technology can print those patterns. It prints them on Shrinky Dink plastic. Scientists can then shrink the plastic. They can further their nano-scale investigations. The technology is cost effective. Laboratories can independently produce as many copies of these test patterns as they need. That's pretty crafty. There really is a Shinky Dinks kit for everyone.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Were you familiar with Shrinky Dinks before this article? Do you think you would like to try them? Why or why not?
Write your answers in the comments section below