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A Test of Adhesive Strength - An Experiment with the Forces of Adhesion

Grades: 9-12
Author: Jake Saylor
Source: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EEC-1161732.


Students investigate the variables that may impact the peel force of different tapes/adhesives. This includes, factors such as the type of adhesive, peel force, angle, width of sample, and velocity of pull. Although all these may be tested some relationships are trivial for high school students depending on the level. So we will test angle, width, velocity and their relationship to the peel force.


What should students know as a result of this lesson?

  • The students will be able to analyze how peel angle and width of adhesive impacts the force required to peel an adhesive from a surface.

What should the students be able to do as a result of this lesson?

  • The students should be able to draw conclusions from their data to determine how peel force is affected by angle and width of sample. In addition, discuss things such as velocity, weight force, and friction force.


  • Ramp - which can be changed to various angles
  • 3 c-clamps
  • mass hook set
  • motion detector
  • protractor (or iHandy level app for cell phone)
  • ruler
  • string



Your grandmother is having trouble opening her yogurt cup with her old brittle and carpal tunnel filled hands. She asks you to investigate what angle she should peel the lid back to exert the least amount of force. You decide to investigate it a little further and ask; what variables may impact the force required to peel an adhesive from a surface?


Students will perform a lab changing the angle of peel and width of sample to determine how these variables impact peel force.


Students will graph their data and answer analysis questions regarding the lab to formulate a relationship between the variables.


Advanced classes may complete further investigations questions using the mathematical model to do some calculations. If time permits: Can you design a device that Grandma could use to help her open her yogurt cup?


Students should have a basic understanding of motion, different types of forces, and Newton's Laws. In addition, students should understand the importance of adhesives and different adhesives that are available.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Questioning
  • Hands-on/Minds-on Learning
  • Real-life situations

Alignment with Standards

NGSS Standards:

  • HS-PS2-6 Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.

Common Core Standards:

  • RST.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account.

National Standards:

  • Physics: Forces, Momentum and Motion

Ohio Standards:

  • Physics: Forces, Momentum and Motion

Content Knowledge

  • Using technology (Motion Detector and computer to collect data)
  • Forces & Newton's Laws
  • Motion - velocity and acceleration


Students should be familiar with basic lab safety rules.


Adhesives are all around us. They come in the form of tapes, wall/window/floor decals, and glues. Millions of dollars each year are invested in purchasing these products as well as doing research to design more efficient products. The strength of these adhesives determines their use. Stronger adhesives such as duct tape leave a residue and are very difficult to remove from most surfaces. Weaker adhesives such as wall decals must be strong enough to stay on the wall but must be able to be easily removed.


Lab data collection, graphing, analysis and application questions.

Other Considerations

Grouping Suggestions: Other variables may be tested besides the ones that are presented here. Students should be in groups of 2 or 3.

Pacing/Suggested Time: A 45 min. period should be allowed to complete the lab and questions. I would suggest doing the introduction and background information the day before.

Printable PDF Worksheets

Safety Disclaimer