The Chemistry of Hydrophobic Sand (Magic Sand)


Hydrophobic sand, or magic sand, is toy made from sand that is coated a with a hydrophobic compound. You can buy this toy, and play with it, or you can create it yourself and then play with it. They can come in at any different color and make them with whatever beginning colored sand you want. It may take a while to make while waiting for the sand to dry after giving the coat of some sort of hydrophobic spray.

I chose this project for several reasons. First, I heard about it from a fellow peer of mine, and look it up. It seemed awesome and caught my eye instantly. The second reason I chose this was, I really didn’t much about hydrophobic sand’s background, so I chose it and it was worth it.

This toy is very useful besides being something to do for children. When there is an oil spill somewhere close to a shore, sand can clean a majority of that spill. The sand would bond with the oil and other substances would bond with magic sand. They will come together, and the mass would be heavy enough to sink the oil with it to the bottom of the ocean, sea, etc.

Composition of ...

    • Ordinary beach sand
      • Tiny particles of pure silica
      • Silicone Dioxide SiO2
    • Trimethylsilanol vapour
      • (CH3)3SiOH

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

    • Beach Sand

Beach sand is made from tiny grains of rocks and minerals. Since beach sand is found by some sort of water source, globally, there could be particles from any organism that lives by the water. The most common component of sand is silicon dioxide in the form of quartz. Beach sands look more white, because those beaches have calcium from organisms. Sand can be used to make asphalt in road construction, toys (like magic sand), and used in sandbags for lining floors up and many other uses as well. The composition of sand can vary due its geographical location with rock sources nearby.

    • Trimethylsilanol vapour=(CH3)3SiOH

Trimethylsilanol vapour is made of Carbon, hydrogen, silicon, and oxygen atoms. Trimethylsilanol is formed by hydrolysis of silicones-based containing materials, which are found in detergents and cosmetic products. This vapor can be found in landfill gas, and bio gas. They are found here because of the decay of silicones.

Chemistry's Role

The sand in the magic sand is naturally made. There are different ways of getting sand to create magic sand. You can just go to a beach and grab a lot of sand, or just buy a bag of a sand.

The pure silica, silicone dioxide, tiny grains of rocks and minerals, and occasionally some particles from an organism are the building blocks of sand. The composition of sand can vary due its geographical location with rock sources nearby. The exterior of the sand grains have groups that are insoluble (incapable of being dissolved) in water.

Trimethylsilanol, which is (CH3)3SiOH, is an organosilicon compound. An organosilicon compound are bonds containing carbon-silicon bonds. Most organosilicon compounds, like trimethylsilanol, are similar to organic compounds, being colorless, flammable, and hydrophobic. Trimethylsilanol vapours can be found in landfill gas and biogas. The trimethylsilanol vapor, from these gases, are made by decay of silicones from organisms. Trimethylsilanol is formed by hydrolysis of silicones based containing materials, which are found in detergents and cosmetic products. The silicon in the trimethylsilanol is the center of the whole compound, containing three methyl groups. This gives the name of trimethylsilanol ( three methyl groups that from the silicon. Trimethylsilanol also contains one hydroxyl group (Oxygen and hydrogen).

When the sand and trimethylsilanol mix, the trimethylsilanol forms covalent bonds with the hydroxyl groups on the sand molecules’ surface, replacing the hydrophilic with hydrophobic. When the trimethylsilanol compound bonds expose with the silica particles, the exterior of the sand grains are coated with hydrophobic groups. It will almost create a silver color coat, that protects the sand from separating. This magic sand is man made from natural occurring components of magic sand.

Background Research

Hydrophobic sand, or magic sand is toy made from sand coated with a hydrophobic compound. The earliest reference for waterproof sand is from the book The Boy Mechanic Book 2, which was published by Popular Mechanics. The book states that the Magic sand was created by East Indian magicians. They made it by, mixing heated sand and melted wax. When the sand was exposed with the water, the wax would repel the water, not making it wet.


    • What hydrophobic sand is made from
    • How it is made with different compounds

    • What the component of sand is
    • What sand bonds with

    • What trimethylsilanol are
    • What organosilicon are what their characteristics are

    • How to make hydrophobic sand

    • How sand reacts with water
    • Difference between hydrophobic and hydrophilic

    • Background of how regular sand reacts with water

    • How magic sand reacts with water
    • More info of trimethylsilanol and vapor,_Its_All_About_Nano/Magic_Sand.html

    • What magic sand is used for in real world applications

    • Picture

About the Author

Michael Van Atta is a junior at Billings Senior High in Billings, MT. Michael loves to watch sports, and plays basketball for Senior as well. He is also very into outdoor activities as well, including, fishing, hiking, skiing, and traveling. He loves to be around his family and is very hard working and focused in school. He maintains a high GPA. He is also a senior advocate at Senior High. He has chose this topic of hydrophobic sand, because he likes to interact with things he is not familiar with. He hopes to have a future career in some sort of physical therapy.