Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have two objects here which are made of the same plastic. When I hold them together, they remain separate objects: I can pull them apart with no resistance.

How does each atom/molecule “know” which object it belongs to? Why do the objects not fuse?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

Most plastics consist of long molecules (polymer chains) intertwined like a wad of thread or cotton. When you push two wads of cotton together, they won't just stick. Same thing happens with plastics.

Additionally, the same thing applies to plastics as does to metals: the contact is not flat enough at the atomic level. However, with plastics you can improve this significantly by heating the object until it flows easily. If you push two pieces of heated plastic together, they stick reasonably well. The plasticity allows for very close contact at the molecular level, but the bond is not as strong as the plastic itself because the molecules still don't really intertwine very well.

share|improve this answer

They don't fuse because you haven't put in the energy to bond them together. Joining any two atoms takes energy, not just holding them in the same spot.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.