Polymers in Chewing Gum

M. Slone

Believe it or not, the same type of material used to make plastics, rubbers, and an almost infinite number of other things is also in chewing gum. Polymers are materials made up of very long molecules that are chains consisting of small repeating units. The chains can be up to tens or hundreds of thousands units long. Polymers are all around us, from trash bags to chairs to car tires. The base of chewing gum is made up of polymers, which give the characteristic chewiness and ability to be deformed and not break down. The first chewing gums were made of naturally occurring polymers that could be derived from trees and other plants. In the modern age, these can be replaced with improved man-made polymers that can retain flavor longer and have better texture. Though this is just a tiny part of what materials science has accomplished, it is a good example of how materials science affects us all.