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Make Your Own Chewing Gum

Students make their own chewing gum and observe a polymerization reaction. They will explore the special properties of their chewing gum polymer, and the effect of heat on the polymer.

Polymers are chemical compounds with molecules bonded together in long, repeating monomer chains. Because of their structure, polymers have unique properties that can be tailored for different uses.

Polymers are both man-made and naturally occurring.

Rubber, for example, is a natural polymeric material that has been used for thousands of years. It has excellent elastic qualities, the result of a molecular polymer chain created by nature. Man made synthetic polymers can be pliable, while others are permanently rigid. Still others have rubber-like properties or resemble plant or animal fibers. These materials are found in all sorts of products, from swimsuits to cooking pans.

Synthetic polymer polyvinyl acetate is regularly used in chewing gum bases along with elastomers, fats, waxes and emulsifiers. It makes up almost 60% of the gum base and is preferred by many manufacturers because it is readily available, has strong chewing properties and improves film formation

Chewing gum is a soft, cohesive substance designed in order to be chewed without being swallowed. Modern chewing gum is composed of gum base, sweeteners, softeners/plasticizers, flavors, colors, and, typically, a hard or powdered coating. Synthetic polymer polyvinyl acetate is regularly used in chewing gum bases, it makes up almost 60% of the gum base.

Chewing gum texture is reminiscent of rubber because of the physical-chemical properties of its polymer, plasticizer, and resin components, which contribute to its elastic-plastic, sticky, chewy characteristics.


  • Name some practical uses for polymers.

  • Investigate the properties of common polymers.

  • Describe in general terms what occurs during a polymerization reaction.


  • Per Student or Group:
    cutting board
    microwavable bowl
    finger bowl
    wax paper
    plastic bags

  • Bubble gum making kit:
    1/3 cup of gum base
    ¼ tsp of citric acid
    1 tsp glycerine
    2 tbsp of corn syrup
    1/2 cup of powdered sugar
    5 to 7 drops of flavouring (traditional bubble gum, chocolate or vanilla)

    * OPTIONS: Ingredients may be collected in bulk OR Bubble Gum kits are available from some candy shops and large chain stores such as WalMart, or can be ordered from Steve Spangler Science. If using a kit, follow the instructions provided.

Key Questions

  • What special properties does this polymer have?
  • What effect did heat play in the formation of this polymer?
  • What can we observe from making this polymer?

What To Do

  1. Mix 1/3 cup of gum base with 1/4 tsp of citric acid, 1 tsp of glycerine and 2 tbsp corn syrup.
  2. Microwave the gum base mixture in a microwavable bowl for 1 minute.
  3. Pour out 1/2 cup of powdered sugar onto a cutting board and make a hole in the center of the pile. Leave a little powdered sugar in a bowl to the side to coat your fingers when you begin kneading the gum mixture.
  4. Remove the gum base from the microwave and stir. The gum base should be thoroughly melted and very sticky. If it’s not, microwave it for another 30 seconds and stir again. Repeat the process until the mixture is gooey.
  5. Add 5 to 7 drops of flavouring to the gum base and mix well.
  6. Knead the gum base mixture and powdered sugar for 20 minutes. The dough should feel smooth and stiff in your hands. If it gets sticky, add more powdered sugar. The longer you knead the dough, the less likely the gum is to fall apart as it’s chewed.
  7. Roll the homemade bubble gum into a rope, and cut it into bite sized pieces using scissors.
  8. Wrap each piece in wax paper, or store them all in a re-sealable plastic bag.


  • Weigh gum before and after chewing. Do you expect it to increase or decrease in mass? (The mass should decrease substantially because over 60% of bubble gum is sugar which should dissolve during chewing.)

Other Resources

University of Southern Mississippi | Polymer Science Learning Center | Make a Virtual Polymer