Science project

Non-Newtonian Flow

Research Question:

What is a Non-Newtonian fluid? How does it work?

If you need to cross a river of quicksand, what should you do? Run right across it, of course. If you run over a river of quicksand, it will act like a solid. If you slowly step into it, it will act like a liquid. Try out this science project to save yourself next time you find yourself sinking.


  • Large bowl
  • Water, oil, or applesauce
  • 1 ½ cups of cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ cups of water
  • Sand

Experimental Procedure:

  1. Fill a bowl with water, oil, or applesauce, all of which are considered liquid for the purposes of this experiment.
  2. Press two fingers into the substance. Then punch the substance with your fist. What happens?
  3. Press two fingers onto a solid surface, such as a tabletop. Punch the solid surface. What happens?
  4. Discard the substance in the bowl, and rinse out the bowl.
  5. Add about 1 ½ cups of cornstarch and 1 ¼ cups of water to the bowl.
  6. Mix the cornstarch and water together until the mixture is difficult to stir, but not too dry. If necessary, add a bit more cornstarch or water until you reach the desired consistency.
  7. Sprinkle sand over the surface of the mixture.
  8. Press two fingers into the mixture and observe what happens.
  9. Punch the mixture with your fist. What happens?
  10. Fill out a table, such as the one below, describing which aspects of the mixture are similar to a liquid, and which aspects are similar to a solid.

Terms/Concepts: Non-Newtonian fluid; What are the characteristics of solids and liquids?


  • Experiments You Can Do in Your Backyard, edited by Joanna Callihan and Nathan Hemmelgarn. Pp 54-55.

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