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Slime

Experiment with different types of non-Newtonian fluids

What you’ll need:

  • School glue
  • Borax (1 tsp per cup)
  • Liquid starch
  • Cornstarch
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Cooking oil
  • Water
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Bowls
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Glitter or other add-ins (optional)

Here’s what to do:

Glue-based slimes

Gloop

  1.     Make a borax solution by dissolving 1 tsp of borax in 1 cup of warm water.
  2.     Combine ½ cup of glue and 1/3 cup of warm water in a bowl. Stir.
  3.     Add a couple drops of food coloring and glitter, if desired.
  4.     While stirring, slowly add up to ½ cup of your borax solution until slime reaches desired consistency. If you want it to be slimier, add less borax.
  5.     Pick up your slime and begin to knead and stretch it with your hands for a few minutes.

 

Silly Putty Slime

  1.     Combine ¼ cup of glue and ¼ cup of warm water in a bowl. Stir.
  2.     Add a couple drops of food coloring and glitter, if desired.
  3.     Add ¼ cup of liquid starch and stir.
  4.     Once you are able, pick up the slime in your hands and knead. Continue to stretch, fold, and knead your slime for at least five minutes.
  5.     To make your slime less slimy, add more starch.

 

Cornstarch-based slimes

Oobleck

  1.     Combine 1½ cups of cornstarch with 1 cup of water in a large bowl.
  2.     Stir and slowly add more cornstarch or water until oobleck reaches the desired consistency. When you hit it, the oobleck should be solid, but when you scoop some into your hand and hold it in your open palm, it should flow and drip back into the bowl like a liquid.

 

Flubber Soap

    1.     Combine ½ cup of cornstarch, 3 Tbsp of cooking oil, and ¼ cup of liquid dish soap in a bowl.
    2.     Stir and add small amounts of cornstarch (about 1 tsp at a time) until the flubber reaches your desired consistency. You can stop when it is really stretchy and slimy or keep adding cornstarch until it is more like dough.

Play with and test your slimes. How are they the same? How are they different? Which is your favorite? Why? 

When you’re done playing with your slimes, you can store them in containers or sandwich bags for about a week, then throw them in the trash. To clean up your dishes, try to put excess material in the trash and then wash your dishes in the sink with hot soapy water.

Take it further:

  • Do all of your slimes behave the same way? How do they each respond to pressure? Stretching? Try to grab a handful of each slime, then open your hand and let it ooze back into the bowl. Do all of your slimes flow the same?
  • What happens if you make the glue-based slimes without water? How are they different?
  • Can you combine the ingredients to make a bouncy ball? Which ratio of ingredients works the best? How high can you get your ball to bounce? Note that you may need to wait a few minutes for the reaction to finish after you add the liquid starch and/or borax solution and roll into a ball before testing your bouncy ball.
  • If you combine two or more of the slimes together, how does the new slime respond to pressure and stretching?

The slimes we made are examples of non-Newtonian fluids. Sir Isaac Newton said that fluids have a constant viscosity, or resistance to flow, that is only affected by temperature; examples include water and oil. However, we later discovered many fluids in which the viscosity changes due to applied stress, like squeezing, and since these fluids don’t follow Newton’s rule, they were named non-Newtonian fluids. When you squeeze your slimes, they act like solids and have high viscosity, but when you let them drip back toward the bowl, they act more like a traditional liquid and have lower viscosity. You have likely used many non-Newtonian fluids including ketchup, honey, toothpaste, and shampoo!

 Slimes rely on polymers – long chain molecules in which a monomer (meaning one unit) repeats many times to form the chain. Polymer means many units! In our slimes, we are using two different polymers (glue made from polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and cornstarch) and two different borate-containing activators (borax and liquid starch). When you start with just the glue, you have a bunch of polymers that aren’t connected to each other; you can think of it like a bowl of cooked spaghetti – if you pick up one noodle, you would get one long noodle, not all of the noodles because they aren’t connected. When you add the activator, the borate ions form bonds to the polymers that cross-link the polymer chains together. Now if you tried to pull out one polymer chain, you’d get a bunch, more like a net because they are connected! These cross-links are not very strong, so you can break them when you tear your slime into two pieces, but when you set both pieces in the same bowl, those cross-links will reform to make one big bowl of slime again.

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