The U.S. Bowling Congress kicks off its Women's Championship Tournament this month. Polymer science and surface chemistry play an important role in this very popular sport.
The game was invented by the ancient Egyptians, who made their bowling balls by carving stone. Eons later, during the early 1900s, balls were made of wood and then rubber. Around 1960, bowling ball manufacturers used polyester resin for the first time, enabling the production of plastic balls with bright, swirled colors.
Once polymers were introduced, the science of bowling took off. In fact, the materials chemistry of bowling balls has advanced so much that a national governing body, the U.S. Bowling Congress (USBC), now sets regulations on ball manufacturing. “We’re always looking at ways to better control the environment of bowling,” says Paul Ridenour, a research engineer for the USBC Specifications & Certifications team.
Ten-pin bowling balls are no longer made just of hard solid rubber or plastic. “Modern-day bowling balls are made from a three-piece construction,” Ridenour says. The pieces include an inner core, an outer “filler” core, and a shell (or coverstock, in bowling lingo) that work in concert to achieve the ultimate in success on the bowling lanes—the strike.
“The specific, desired weight of a ball is achieved by changing the density of the inner parts,” says Victor Marion, a technical service representative at Brigham City, Utah-based manufacturer Storm Products. Heavy 16-lb bowling balls are quite dense, but balls weighing 10 lb or less have such a low density that they can float in water. The exact materials that go into making each part of the ball, Marion says, are considered “proprietary technologies that are closely guarded.”
Visit “What’s That Stuff” to read more about the chemistry of bowling balls.
Excerpted with permission, Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2008 American Chemical Society