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Below are just a few ways chemistry helps kids get ready for the new school year:

Helping with homework:

Kids today increasingly use computers to research class assignments, write papers and even take tests. Electronics of all kinds depend on chemistry – from plastic-coated wiring, to silicon computer chips, to scratch-resistant polycarbonate computer screens.

Organizing and protecting school supplies and devices:

Many kids’ backpacks have plastic padding to help protect electronics, laptops and tablets from being damaged if dropped. Today, backpacks can be made entirely of plastic materials, right down to the zippers and pulls. For younger students, a transparent vinyl backpack can be a great choice because they are easy to clean and kids can check to see that all of their gear is in the backpack. Backpacks made from plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) also are water resistant and resist bacteria growth and mildew.

Keeping lunch fresh:

Insulated lunch boxes are lightweight and make lunches easy to carry, even for the youngest students. Reusable plastic containers like thermoses and water bottles are shatter-resistant and convenient for everyday use. Many kinds of plastics packaging are airtight – from zip top baggies to resealable containers – keeping foods and snacks fresh and delicious from morning until lunchtime. Collapsible lunch boxes using silicone chemistry are lightweight and space saving.

Helping with creativity:

Arts and crafts supplies depend on chemistry. Crayons come in hundreds of colors, but their chemical makeup is quite simple. The two basic ingredients in most crayons are paraffin wax (also used to make candles) and color pigment. Pens can contain white ink (which contains titanium oxide), metallic gold ink (copper-zinc alloy) and carbon black. Carbon black, a pigment derived from coal and oil, is an essential part of black ballpoint pen ink.

Supporting young athletes:

Bike helmets and other sports gear made from different types of plastics help protect kids from injury on the playing fields. A helmet lining made from expanded polystyrene in different layers and densities enables the helmet to absorb impact, while the helmet’s shell – often made with polycarbonate – is strong, but lightweight and shatter-resistant, adding even more protection.Got a track and field star in your family? Polyurethane in the midsole of sneakers and running shoes adds stability and cushioning that doesn’t flatten out over time. The outer soles of running shoes are often made of a thermoplastic rubber material, which provides support and shock absorption.

Providing protection from the weather:

Rain jackets and other gear enhanced with fluorinated polymers are water-repellent and stain- and abrasion-resistant to help children stay warm and dry through the school year. Thanks to chemistry, fabrics like polyester or nylon allow skin to breathe; moisture vapor can pass through fabric while repelling rain or snow on the outside of the jacket.

Thanks to the products of chemistry, students – and their teachers – can be ready for a successful year as soon as the school bell rings.

To learn more about the everyday benefits of chemistry, check out some of our other stories on chemical safety here, including this video on Chemistry in the Great Outdoors.

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