What Makes a Bouncy Ball Bounce so High?

What Makes a Bouncy Ball Bounce so High?

A bouncy ball, also called a power ball or super ball, bounces very high because of the properties of the synthetic polymer, primarily consisting of vulcanized polybutadiene, used to make the ball. The polymer was invented by Norman Stingley in 1964 and named Zectron. In addition to polybutadiene, it contains hydrated silica, stearic acid and zinc oxide.

The first bouncy ball was the Super Ball, a proprietary toy manufactured by the toy company Wham-O using Zectron, a polybutadiene-based synthetic rubber. All bouncy balls use similar rubbers.

The compound is formed by vulcanizing its ingredients in sulfur at 329 degrees Fahrenheit under a pressure of 3,500 psi. Balls made from the compound have a high coefficient of restitution, and can bounce six times higher than other rubber balls. Despite its high resiliency, the compound can chip when bounced on rough surfaces.

When thrown with force, bouncy balls can bounce over buildings three stories high. Wham-O claimed the original Super Ball had a resiliency of 92 percent and that it could bounce repeatedly for up to a minute when dropped from a short distance.

The original Super Ball was a huge success and Wham-O sold six million of the balls in the first year of production. Bouncy balls have remained popular and are available in different sizes and colors.