What do you think, will the type of liquid in a glass change the way a magnet’s force works? We use three different liquids to test our theory.
Using simple supplies found at home, kids can learn about viscosity and resistance through this simple hands-on experiment. Preview our demonstration video using water, vegetable oil and corn syrup, but our printable instructions and simple scientific explanation include alternate liquids you can use to test the concept.
How Liquid Impacts a Magnet Video
- 3 Glasses
- 12 Paper Clips
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
Step 1 – Place three cups in a row.
Step 2 – Fill the first glass with the water.
Step 3 – Fill the middle glass with the vegetable oil.
Step 4 – Fill the third glass with the corn syrup.
Step 5 – Next, place 4 paper clips in each glass.
Step 6 – You may need to gently push the paper clips to the bottom of the glass with the corn syrup.
Step 7 – Test your magnet by showing how paper clips outside of the liquid are attracted to it.
Step 8 – Next, take your magnet and place it next to each glass. Notice that all the paper clips are attracted to the magnet, but that the liquid in the glass causes the paper clips to move differently.
How Does the Experiment Work?
The question answered in this experiment is how does the consistency of a liquid impact magnetic attraction.
A unique property of liquids is something called viscosity. Viscosity is a liquid’s resistance to flowing. Viscosity depends on the size and shape of the particles that make the liquid, as well as the attraction between the particles. Liquids that have a LOW viscosity flow quickly (ie. water, rubbing alcohol, and vegetable oil). Liquids that have a HIGH viscosity flow slowly (ie. honey, corn syrup, and molasses).
When using water and vegetable oil, the paper clips moved through the liquid to the magnet very quickly. This is because water and vegetable oil have a low viscosity and provide very little resistance to the paperclips moving through them. When using corn syrup, the paper clips moved very slowly toward the magnet. This is because the corn syrup has a high viscosity and provides a lot of resistance to the paper clips moving through it.
The magnet still attracts the paperclips in each of the scenarios, but the experiment shows how the viscosity of a liquid impacts how fast (or slow) the paperclips move toward the magnet.
I hope you enjoyed the experiment. Here are some printable instructions;