Make Homemade "Silly Putty" And Enjoy A Non-Newtonian Fluid

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Fun With "Solid Liquids"

Have you ever tried to cut water with scissors, shatter milk without freezing it, or make a snowball out of lemonade? All those ideas sound pretty silly. Everyone knows that you can't cut, shatter, or mold unfrozen, runny liquids... or can you?

If you have played with Silly Putty you likely know that it can do some pretty weird things. You can cut it with scissors, shatter it with a sharp blow using a hammer, and snap it apart with a swift tug. It doesn't behave like most other liquids. The reason that putty acts so odd is that it is a non-Newtonian fluid.

Here is a recipe to make your own putty. It is very easy and will only take a few minutes. After the recipe you will find more information about the science of putty.

5 stars from 1 rating of Homemade Putty

Ingredients

  • 1 part liquid starch, available in most stores near the laundry detergent
  • 1 part white glue, also known as Elmer's glue, school glue, or PVA glue
  • food coloring
  • zip top bag

Instructions

  1. Pour the liquid starch into the zip bag
  2. Add 2-4 drops of food coloring to the liquid starch if you would like your putty to have color. It will be white if you skip this step.
  3. Add the Elmer's glue to the bag.
  4. Close the bag and mix everything up by squishing it around.
  5. One the glue has congealed (it will look like a stringy blob, or a well formed blob) you can remove the putty from the bag.
  6. If the putty is still like glue and there is little starch left in your bag, add more starch.
  7. Knead the blob in your hands. It may start out slightly sticky. It will have little form and be slimy when you start. As you knead it and play with it, it will become a well formed blob.
  8. Throw out the remaining liquid. Play with your putty. When your putty is not in use store it in an airtight container.

What Is A Non-Newtonian Fluid?

A non-Newtonian fluid is a substance that is not a solid and does not follow any of Newton's rules for how a liquid should act. The largest different between a Newtonian and non-Newtonian liquid is how the substance reacts under applied force. Most liquids only change viscosity when the temperature changes. An example is water. It acts the same until it is frozen. Once frozen, water is now hard and ridged. Non-Newtonian fluids will change based on how much stress is applied to the fluid.

Try These Activities To See How Your Putty Responds

  1. Roll your putty into a snake. Hold the snake in two hands and slowly pull your hands apart. Next, do the same thing again but this time quickly jerk your hands apart. What happens? Did the speed change how your putty responded?
  2. Roll your putty into a ball. Try to bounce the ball on a table. What does it do? If you let your putty sit for a while, what does it do?
  3. Take a hammer to your putty. What happens? Can you hit it hard enough to make it shatter? Is there a difference in how it responds if you hit it slowly versus quickly?

A Short History Of "Silly Putty"

If you buy putty form the store it is a little different from homemade putty. The largest difference is that store bought putty won't dry out. Store bought putty is a mix of boric acid and silicon oil. It was invented when James Wright of General Electric was trying to find a compound that could replace rubber. For obvious reasons, it didn't replace rubber. Luckily, Peter Hodgson saw some of the failed rubber at a party and saw how people were playing with it. He decided to see if he could sell it as a toy. His solid liquid was a hit and is still being sold today.

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Comments 14 comments

Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

I used to love Silly Putty. My roommate makes Palay Dough for her kids, I'll have to share this with her. Great Hub and very interesting information!


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks! It is a very fun recipe. It acts much the same way as "real" Silly Putty. It is a little softer and wetter than the original. I am sure she will have fun with it!


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 years ago from Brazil

What an interesting hub. It has everything, history, science, and a bit of fun. Also a recipe thrown in for good measure. I used to love Silly Putty, especially using it over the comics.

Voted up and interesting.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

It is fun stuff. The recipe is awesome because it is amazing to see the transformation of the glue to putty. Polymers and chemistry at work.


WriteAngled profile image

WriteAngled 4 years ago from Treorci, Cymru

I have never heard of Elmer's white glue. I assume this is some US brand name. Citing it makes your recipe inaccessible to the rest of the world!


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you for letting me know that! It is an american brand. I am not sure what an "international" counterpart would be. Do you have a white, liquid school glue? I can put a link to some Elmer's for the moment and will see if I can find a way to make this more accessible.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

Well, it looks like in the UK you can get Elmer's as well. If anyone in that area needs some: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Elmers-Glue-All-Multi-Purp...

Not sure about other countries. I have posed the question in HP's question area. We will see what we get. If anyone has any tips, please pass them on.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

I have tried to amend my ingredients so that it has a better description. Elmer's glue, white glue, school glue, or PVA glue should all be the same ingredient internationally and should do what you need it to do.


WriteAngled profile image

WriteAngled 4 years ago from Treorci, Cymru

Thanks a lot for that! I've certainly heard of PVA. When something is a household name in one country, it's not always obvious that it might be a total mystery to people elsewhere.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 4 years ago from USA Author

You're welcome! I give thanks to the hubbers who helped me with the answer. I got to learn that my glue is polyvinyl acetate in the process.

I am glad someone pointed it out to me as well.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

This would be fun to do with kids--thanks for a neat post.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 3 years ago from USA Author

Thank you! I hope that you enjoy it.


B K Karan profile image

B K Karan 3 years ago

its really interesting to do that......nice dude!!!!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 9 months ago from America

My kids always loved silly putty. What a great idea to make your own. Thanks for sharing. Pinning.

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