The Chemistry of a Football

  • IntroductionI decided to do the Chemistry of a football and what makes up the composition of a football
  • I chose this as my subject because i thought it would be interesting to find out what makes up a football and compare the football being used today and the football used back in the past
  • My life is affected by football for over 7 months of the year each year with participating for each season

Composition of ...

Materials: rubber bladder, cowhide or natural or artificial leather, air, and rubber or string laces

  • In the early stages of football the ball was made out of an inflated pig's bladder
  • Today’s football is made of a natural rubber bladder with it being enclosed pebble-grained leather or cowhide or the more high tech ones are made of a rubber material. The ball is filled with air.
  • The laces on the football are either made of a synthetic rubber substance or simply string

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components


Nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) It’s a synthetic rubber and is the rubber is used on the laces of the football.

Butyl rubber:

The inside bladder is a synthetic rubber which is filled with air to give it it its form and shape. The rubber is made of Butyl rubber. Butyl rubber is 98 percent polyisobutylene and 2 percent isoprene. Polyisobutylene can be stretched at extreme distances and it can form back to its beginning shape. Isoprene is a deadly, clear liquid. It's usually used in the production of natural rubber.


Composition leather creates a more easier cutting surface . The leather is man-made from leather fibres. The leather is easier and allows for more precise cuts and it better protects against the elements such as rain or wetness.

The leather skin, is made of amino acids that combine into a collagen including Glycine, Alanine, Proline, Hydroxy Proline, Arginine.

Skin Amino acids

Chemistry's Role

How is leather formed?

Leather is not naturally occurring. It is formed by taking a raw hide of the cow into a stable material. This is called Tanning. The hides are tanned to remain flexible and can be re-wetted. The most commonly used ingredient for tanning is Chromium. The leather is continually soaked in tanning liquid and is checked by poking through the leather till the liquid is evenly gone. The next step is crusting. Crusting is where the skin is thinned, and tanned again. The enzymes play a serious role in the making of leather through soaking, degreasing, and for operations of leather manufacturing.

How Butyl Rubber is formed?

Butyl Rubber is a copolymer of isobutylene. It is not naturally occurring and is formed in the lab. It is made by polymerizing 98% of isobutylene and 2% isoprene. It is made only by cationic addition polymerization. That is where a cationic moves its charge to a monomer which makes it reactive. The reaction eventually forms a polymer.

The butyl rubber is impermeable to air which comes in handy when the rubber is used to form an air bladder.

Natural Rubber can be made from the wild rubber tree by tapping the sap out of the tree. The trees can be found in South America. Originally acid was added to latex to make the sap more solid. But today liquid latex is sent to industrial factories and is made by the machines.

Leather- the football can be made of pure leather or a composite leather. Real leather balls are the highest grade but more expensive. Composite leather football is the most commonly used. They are more resistant to water and have a better grip.

Composite leather is made by taking leather materials and combining a binding material, a few softeners, and some cushioning agents. The cushioning agents can be a natural material such as synthetic or natural latex and the binding material can be made from polymeric foam or bubbles. All these methods go into the making of composite leather.

Isoprene- Is a naturally occurring material. It made industrially by changing oils. About 95% of the making of isoprene is and to form a synthetic item of natural rubber

Background Research

The first Football game was played in 1869. It comes from the early game of rugby. Over the years the game of Football has evolved into the game we know as today both in the rules how it’s played and also the equipment used in the sport especially the Football!

The cowhide is tanned, cut into a oval shapes. The two hides are sewn together and rubber bladder is placed inside. And it is filled with air and the laces are tied and sewn in forming the finished product.

Where is it made?

The NFL official footballs are hand made by Wilson Sporting Goods in a factory in Ada, Ohio. But footballs are created in other factories world wide.

How it Works?

The rubber bladder is filled with air giving it its shape and form and the rubber allows for the ball to bounce and be kicked distances. The shape of the ball gives it a more aerodynamic shape to fly easier when thrown and the shape creates the ball to have unanticipated bounces giving another factor to the game. The leather material that encases the ball forms protection to the bladder inside so it doesn’t easily deflate or lose its shape. The leather also protects against the elements and lessens the chance of natural defect or decay. The leather also adds to the bounciness to the ball giving it some structure. The laces sewn together holds the ball in place to keep its shape. The laces also help for a better grip on the ball and allow the ball to be thrown easier. All the materials hold a certain role in how the ball works.

How a ball bounces:

Balls bounce because they are made of rubber. The rubber has an elastic in it causing it to stretch and bend when force is applied. But the ball bounces back up because the ball’s rubber forms back to its original shape and form giving it the energy and push to bounce back up.

In football kickers purposely push the ball in on the ends to soften the ball up before kicking, because doing so stretches the part of the ball they want to kick. It then gives them more control and power of where they want to kick.


used for composition of the football

Used for information of tanning leather and the chemical composition of the skin of leather

Used for the Background information of the game of Football

Used to understand what the laces of the ball are made of

Used to understand how leather is made and tanned

Used to understand how the butyl rubber is formed through cationic addition polymerization.

Used to understand what butyl rubber made and how the air bladder is made of butyl rubber

Used to more history of the game of football and it’s origins

Used for the background research of natural rubber and how sap is taken from the


Used to describe the making of composite leather in the Background research

About the Author

Ben Browne is a junior at Senior High. He is a good student with a GPA of 3.8. Ben also is an athlete by lettering in Varsity Football. He plans to go to Montana State in Bozeman for college to major in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Aerospace Engineering.