The Super Ball

In 1965, Charles Eames said, “Among the great and elegant design exceptions is a toy produced this year that has swept the country.  What is it? A small bouncing ball—the Super Ball.”

Chemical engineer Norm Stingley created the Super Ball from a material called Zectron, a synthetic rubber polymer polybutadiene that includes hydrated silica, zinc oxide and stearic acid.  According to Wham-O, the manufacturer of the Bouncy Ball, Zectron was “originally intended to cap off gushing oil wells.”

Stingley found a far more playful use for the material.  He vulcanized Zectron with sulfur at 165 degrees Celsius and at a pressure of 80 atmospheres (10+01).  That’s 1,175 pounds per square inch (10+03) or 8,101,339 pascals (10+06).  The result?  A toy with six times the bounce of other rubber balls.  Within a year of its introduction, Wham-O had sold 6 million Super Balls.  In 2007, the product was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

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