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Science Project: Secret Message Tape

January 16, 2013

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Do you need to share a secret message with a friend? Are unwanted eyes seeing the notes you pass in class? Use this science trick to keep your secrets secret and learn something about polymers.

Materials:

  • Teflon tape (found at most hardware stores)
  • Sharpie or permanent marker
  • Paper
  • A secret

Procedure:

  1. Cut off a piece of Teflon tape. As long as your message is, size does not matter here.
  2. Place a piece of paper on the table and position the piece of tape on top if it. This is to make sure you don’t mark the surface underneath with permanent ink.
  3. Write your secret on the piece of tape.
  4. Take the tape from the surface and pull the tape from top to bottom. You want to make you message taller, not longer. Make sure to pull slowly and evenly as the tape can break.
  5. Can you read the message? It should be all squished and illegible.
  6. Pass your secret off and tell its recipient to pull the tape long ways. Again, slow and sure as not to rip the tape.
  7. The tape will stretch back to its original shape and the message should be legible, depending on your handwriting.
  8. Happy secret sharing!

How This Works:

Teflon is a polymer, which is a type of molecular alignment where the molecules repeat in a very regular pattern. It usually has a very high number of molecules. The molecules in your Teflon tape look like this:

The Molecular Alignment of Your Teflon TapeThe Molecular Alignment of Your Teflon TapeCourtesy of stevespangler.com

When you pull your secret message taller you’re pulling the molecular strings out of order. The molecules are bound together so they don't break, they just rearrange themselves. The bonds are so strong that when you pull them back the other way, they continue to stay bound and hold the message you wrote.

Have Your Say!

Do you know of other ways to share secret messages? Share your tricks, tips and science in the comment's section below!