Chemical Bonding and Paintball

Youth Olympic Games-themed activity on: Chemical Bonding and Paintball!

Read the article below and answer the questions that follow.

Paintball Game

Paintball Game

The first paintballs were fired by foresters and ranchers to mark trees and cattle. Then      someone got the bright idea that it would be more fun to fire paintballs at people than at trees and cow. Thus the sport of paintball was born. From its inception in the 1980s, the sport has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, over 10 billion paintballs are produced each year!!!

The first paintballs were not water soluble, since they were similar to the original formulation which was used to marl trees and cattle. When a forester marks a tree, it is important that rain did not wash off the mark. The first paintball contests resulted in a lot of stained and ruined clothing, to the chagrin of many parents.

In the mid-1980s, the paintball manufacturers decided to make a water-soluble paintball. This was a daunting task, since the ‘paint’ for the paintballs could not contain any water or else they would break down the gelatine shell. This feat was accomplished by using water-soluble compounds but not water itself. And once paintballs became water soluble, the popularity of the sport skyrocketed.

After much research, it was determined that polyethylene glycol (PEG) would be an excellent substance for the liquid inside of a paintball. PEG is tasteless, colourless and nearly odourless compound that dissolves in water but has no effect on the gelatine shell. PEG is very viscous. Its thick syrupy consistency makes it perfect for use in paintballs; they have a consistency somewhat like blood when they break open.

Polyethylene glycol, PEG (Kekule Structure)

Polyethylene glycol, PEG (Kekule Structure)

The sport of paintball is highly addictive. Serious players can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on high-tech gear. There are numerous organized leagues and tournaments in countries around the world. Even the U.S. Army is getting into the game; the Long Island Big Game was held on 19th to 20th May 2007 in New York. The game featured tanks, a helicopter, missions and prizes.

A few bruises are a small price to pay for a sport that not only is immensely entertaining but also teaches strategy, builds teamwork and provides great exercise.

With reference to the article and using our understanding on solubility, answer the following questions.

1. (a) It is mentioned in the article that paintballs are water soluble. How is this possible?

PEG is polar. H2O is also polar. PEG forms hydrogen bond with H2O hence is dissolved in H2O.

(b) Draw a diagram illustrating our answer given in 1 (a).

PEG dissolved in water

PEG dissolved in water

2. The dyes used in paintballs are also water-soluble. Why is this a consideration for the manufacturers of paintballs?

Manufacturers want to keep the gelatin shell intact or else they would break own.

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