Making Milk Plastic

Sunday, 12 FEB 2006

A friend of mine bought for me for my birthday a book entitled 'The Mad Scientist Handbook'. This book is targeted for young people and has quite a few experiments in it for them to do. Some on their own and some with a little adult supervision. You can find this book available through Lindsay Books. You can get there by clicking the following link.

After reading the book, I decided this would be great fun to do with my children. My older children derive no fun from activities at all unless it has something to do with a TV and a Video Game. This is my attempt to try to intrest them in something that will feed the grey matter rather than turn it to jelly.

I let them look through the book to see what intrested them and thought we would try a few of these 'experiments' and see what came of them. Later I discovered that the book is available online from the authors website. If you are intrested in doing this experiment, you can find the details of it here. This link will open in a new window. This will open to the 'Plastic Milk' Experiment, but you should be aware that all the experiments in the book are available on his site. :-)

William with all the stuffFirst things first, this is my oldest son William. Here we have gathered everything we need to do the experiment. Here you see we have some whole milk, a jug of white vinegar, a pot to cook it all in, a measuring cup and a teaspoon. (Hmmm... I notice the date is incorrect on my camera. I need to fix that.)

Measuring the milkThe first thing the author asks us to do is measure out 1 cup of milk and pour it into the sauce pan. Here is William doing just that. He seems to be enjoying himself. Maybe there is life after video games!

Pouring the milk in the potOK, so William is pouring it into the pot. That look on his face tells me that maybe he does not agree with my Video Game theory. I guess only time will tell.

Adding the vinegar to the milkNext we are told to measure 2 teaspoons of vinegar into the milk. Here William goes putting in the vinegar and gives it a good stir to mix it well.

Cooking itNext we are told to cook the mixture stirring it frequently until it comes to a boil. From there it will form curds and whey. (Hey I think that was Ms. Muffits gig wasn't it?) Any way, something did not seem to be working correctly. William was stirring in large circles in the pan and the mix started steamin a little bit. The milk curds separated from the whey but it ended up being one GIANT curd in a pool of whey. Well we dicided since the author told us to boil it we would go ahead and let it boil. I told B.J. to give it a good stiring to break the monster curd apart. Well, that worked, we now had a solution of curds and whey, but the curds were really tiny. Maybe we stirred it a little too hard.

Adding more vinegarAt this point we are told to pour the whey off and spoon the curds into a jar. Well let me put it this way, the curds seemed to be suspended in the whey and there was no pouring it off. Maybe, we really got carried away and over cooked the mess and broke the curds way too small. But that is OK, I have a plan. I grab the coffee filter basket from the coffee pot and a clean filter and our the mess inside it. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. Some of the whey filtered through the filter but not nearly enough. I ended up gathering the top of the filter together and sqeezing the whey out of it. Once I was satisfied that all that remained in the filter were curds, I scaped these off into a clean measuring cup. Next the author tells us to add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to the curds and let them sit for two hours. So here you see William adding the vinegar.

Mixing the curds and vinegar upAnd here he is giving the curds and the vinegar a good stir so we can set it aside to let it do its thing.

Two Hours Later

At this point the author tells us that the curds should form a yellowish glob at the bottom of the container and it should be covered with a clear liquid. Well, what we had after two hours was curd vinegret. YUMMY :-P OK, something went wrong. I think it could be a number of things, maybe siphoning all the whey from the curds, maybe over cooked them who knows. We are going to try this experiment again and change our technique a little to see what happens before we decide it is bunk for us to try. Check back sometime, maybe there will be some Plastic made from Milk here. :-)

Sunday, 19 FEB 2006

I attempted this project again, this time with a couple of small differences. I stopped cooking the milk as soon as the whey went clear and the curds had separated from it. What I ended up with was one large curd. I next put the milk curd into a jar and added the vinegar. I waited 2-1/2 hours. Again, there was no settling of any yellow colored glob (casein and milk fats). I believe this process can work as I have found a few other examples of it on the internet, but I cannot get this to work as described in the book. My suggestion to anyone who wants to try it, see if you can find anyone that has managed to make it work and then ask them how they done it. If you know how to make this work, please email me and let me know. There are a couple of things I would like to try to do with the resulting plastic.