The Chemistry of a Volleyball


A volleyball is a ball used to play indoor volleyball, beach volleyball, or other less common variations of the sport. The volleyball was invented by the Spaulding Company in 1896. I chose this as my Chemistry Of … because I have played volleyball for 8 years and it has a very large role in my life. Therefore, I had wanted to know the chemistry behind the ball. My life is affected by my project because I have been around the sport so much and it furthers my knowledge about the sport.

Composition of ...

The composition of a volleyball consists of three major levels of construction. The first level of the ball is a rubber bladder. A rubber bladder is made of the same material of a standard bike inner tube, or polyisobutylene (C4H8)n. Usually, the bladder is then either “floating”, partially attached, or totally attached to a cloth layer. The cloth layer is made out of a material that looks much like a cheesecloth, a loose-woven gauze-like cotton cloth, and is sealed with a rubber like glue.

Then, the outermost layer, or shell, is made of synthetic leather panels, normally 18, which are glued to the cloth layer.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The main components of a Volleyball are the bladder, the leather, and the glue.

Rubber Bladder: Polyisobutylene, also known as "PIB" or polyisobutylene, (C4H8)n, is the homopolymer of isobutylene, or 2-methyl-1-propene, on which butyl rubber is based. Butyl rubber is produced by polymerization of about 98% of isobutylene with about 2% of isoprene.


Glue: Rubber Glue is an adhesive made from elastic polymers (typically latex, or C3H3N) mixed in a solvent such as acetone, hexane, or toluene to keep them fluid enough to be used.

Synthetic or Composite Leather: Synthetic leather is simply a man-made leather. Its texture and surface is produced to replicate the feel of natural leather, but is much cheaper. First, they must pump a petroleum based plasticizer into a mixing tub. They then add an ultraviolet light stabilizer to provide protection from the sun’s rays and a flame retardant solution for fire-proofing. As the mixer blends it together they add powdered vinyl until the batch is about the consistency of pancake batter. Then take a large roll of paper with a leather like-texture to it so it unwinds into a coating machine. The vinyl coated paper then travels through an oven and the vinyl hardens taking on the papers texture. They then roll fabric backing onto the hardened vinyl and remove the paper revealing a textured leather.

Chemistry's Role

The Chemistry of a Volleyball is during the production of the separate parts of the ball, mostly the bladder. This is due to the fact that Composite Leather is a man-made leather, not using any specific elements or compounds.

In order to create the ball bladder, it must go through polymerization, or a process of reacting monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form polymer chains and three-dimensional networks.

The glue involved in making a volleyball is made by mixing elastic macromolecules composed of many repeated subunits and a substance that dissolves a solute, such as acetone, hexane, or toluene resulting in a solution in order to keep the glue fluid enough to be used.

Background Research

Volleyball’s are often made in factories by companies specializing in athletic balls. For example, Tachikara, Baden, Mikasa, Molten, Wilson, and Spalding are all leaders in advanced manufacturing methods. The first volleyball was created by William G. Morgan in 1896. The original name for the volleyball was “Mintonette” but was changed due to the “volleying” involved.


Baden official company website

Information about products they sell

Company background information

Information about what the process of polymerization is

Information about what a volleyball is

Basic components of a volleyball

Tachikara official company website

Information about products they sell

Company background information

Information on what a solvent is

How Synthetic Leather's Made

Information about the creation of composite leather

Video show’s how and the different steps involved

Information about what Butyl Rubber is

Basic components of Polyisobutylene

Information about what Cheesecloth is

Information on William G. Morgan

Information on what a polymer is

About the Author

Shyanne Gilcrist is a Junior at Billings Senior High School. She enjoys participating in basketball and volleyball. Shyanne is a one-time AA State Champion volleyball player. She transferred from Skyview High School this past school year. Shyanne is undecided in where she wants to attend College, but she is planning on majoring in biology in order to become an anesthesiologist and to continue her exploration of science.