Stories tagged non-Newtonian fluid

Mar
09
2011

Oobleck: It's pretty awesome when you put oobleck on a speaker and play music, but you might want to use a speaker from a yard sale rather than one you ever intend to use ever again for actual music enjoyment.
Oobleck: It's pretty awesome when you put oobleck on a speaker and play music, but you might want to use a speaker from a yard sale rather than one you ever intend to use ever again for actual music enjoyment.Courtesy Daniel Christensen

I know you've probably moved on from the BP oil spill to bigger and better things, like Charlie Sheen. But it's worth resurrecting old news for this: oobleck could have succeeded where drilling mud had an epic fail. A researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, came up with the idea to use oobleck because it doesn't behave like a normal liquid--that is, it flows like a liquid if you pour slowly, but behaves like a solid if you apply force to it or try to move it quickly.

This quirky, non-newtonian fluid would have been a big asset to BP's top kill strategy, because the oil's own force would have caused the oobleck to behave like a solid and plug the well, whereas the oil broke up the drilling mud they used and dispersed it. The challenge lies in getting the oobleck quickly into the well without triggering its solid-like behavior too soon.

Have you ever played with oobleck here at Science Museum of Minnesota or elsewhere? It's pretty great stuff, and you can make your own! Who'da thunk it could actually be useful?

Heyo, Buzzketeers!

Anyone have some cornstarch and water (to make the non-Newtonian fluid oobleck), a cookie sheet, and a subwoofer? I've never seen oobleck used like this before, and I want someone besides me to try it out. (I'm just too lazy. Also, they don't let me have cornstarch here anymore.)

Check it out:

PS—Non-Newtonian fluids behave like a liquid and a solid, depending on how they're treated. If you apply pressure to them slowly, they just ooze around like mud. But if you apply pressure to them quickly, the particles in the liquid lock together, and the mass of fluid becomes hard.

Jun
03
2010

Back when BP was still trying the "top kill" method of slowing the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the news was full of references to "drilling mud."

Make some oobleck: It won't stop the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, but it's fun, and you'll learn something about non-Newtonian fluids while you're at it.
Make some oobleck: It won't stop the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, but it's fun, and you'll learn something about non-Newtonian fluids while you're at it.Courtesy JoshSchulz

This stuff is no ordinary mud. It helps a rig drill faster and keeps the equipment cool and lubricated, but it's got some wacky other properties. It's a non-Newtonian fluid. That means its viscosity changes as you apply stress. If you punch or hit a shear thickening non-Newtonian fluid, the atoms in the fluid rearrange themselves in such a way that the liquid acts like a solid. A shear thinning non-Newtonian fluid (like ketchup or toothpaste) behaves the opposite way, getting thinner and drippier under stress.

Still don't quite get it? Check this video:

When they're running--applying a stress whenever their feet strike the surface--the fluid acts like a solid and they can walk on top of it. But when he stands still....

The Mythbusters have played with this phenomenon, too:

So. Drilling mud behaves kind of the same way. Here's Bill Nye explaining it all on CNN. When the drilling mud passes through a narrow opening, under pressure, it locks up and acts more like a solid. The idea was that if BP could pump a water-based drilling mud into the ruined well head and get it to solidify, then they could slow the flow of oil enough that engineers could encase the whole thing in cement. It didn't work. That's because the oil and gas spewing out of the pipe are under tremendous pressure. BP engineers just couldn't pump enough mud in there to stop the oil.

Depressing, huh?

But oobleck isn't. What's oobleck? It's a non-Newtonian fluid you can make and play with at home.
Instructables tells you how.