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Science Fair Projects That Use Paper Towels

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 2/17/2013

When you’re trying to come up with a science fair project, remember you can use one material in so many different ways. Take something as simple as a paper towel. There are several ways that you can design a science fair project with paper towels using the paper towels in completely different ways.

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    The Most Absorbent Paper Towel

    Two of the most basic science fair projects with paper towels involve figuring out which brand of paper towel is the best quality. Of course, the definition of “the best quality” can differ based on how the paper towel is being used. One person may prefer the most absorbent paper towel, whereas another may prefer the strongest paper towel.

    To test paper towels for absorbency, simply measure out a specific amount of water in a beaker. Then dip a paper towel into the beaker and gently remove it, perhaps using tweezers so that you minimize squeezing the water out. Measure the remaining water in the beaker and calculate how much water the paper towel removed.

    Repeat this process with several brands of paper towels, making sure that they’re all exactly the same size. You can declare whichever brand absorbs the most water as the most absorbent!

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    The Strongest Paper Towel

    No matter how much fluid a paper towel absorbs, nobody wants a paper towel to break apart during the cleaning process. To test a paper towel for strength, stretch it over the mouth of a very wide jar and use a rubber band to secure it. Measure a specific amount of water and wet the paper towel thoroughly. Then slowly add pennies to the part of the paper towel stretched over the mouth of the cup. Note how many pennies it takes to break through the paper towel.

    Repeat this process with several brands of paper towels, again making sure that they’re the same size. Whichever paper towel withstands the weight of the most pennies is the strongest.

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    The Best Water Filter

    You can also use paper towels as part of a water filter to test various filtration materials. Simply place a large funnel into a jar so that it stands up securely. Then layer cut pieces of paper towels into the funnel so that they cover the hole leading into the jar. Between each layer, insert a different filtration material to be tested, such as a layer of cotton balls, some pieces of newspaper, a handful of thinly-spread gravel, a handful of sand, and anything else you think might filter the water. Pour some water from a nearby lake, river, or puddle into the filter and let it seep through the layers. Then take apart the filter and examine each layer to see what it filtered from the water.

    For a more complex science fair project with paper towels you can repeat this experiment several times using only one filtration material each time. Then use a water quality testing kit to find out the quality of the water after it has gone through each of the various materials.

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    Bean Plant Projects

    A simple way to make a science fair project with paper towels involves lining a foam cup with a wet paper towel and slipping a lima bean (or other fast-growing seed) between the towel and the cup. You can make several of these seed-growers and test them under various conditions to see which one grows the best bean plant. For example, you might place one in a dark closet and another on a windowsill in the sunlight. (Take a look at this article for some other tests you can do on bean plants.)

Winning Science Fair Projects

Looking for some winning science fair projects? The science fair project ideas in this series are the perfect place to start.
  1. Science Fair Projects That Use Paper Towels
  2. 3 Science Fair Projects About Renewable Energy: Conserving Earth’s Resources
  3. Plant Experiments in Elementary Science Class: Growing Bean Plants

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