Cornflour is a convenient tool for science projects because almost everyone has cornflour in their pantry or kitchen. One of the most interesting properties of cornflour is that when you mix it with water, it becomes a suspension. A suspension is a mixture of two substances, where one of the substances is finely mixed into the other. Once you have made your cornstarch and water suspension, sometimes called "oobleck," you can try a variety of cornflour science experiments.
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Making a Suspension
For every four ounces of cornflour that you use, mix in a half of a cup of water. Make sure you add the water slowly to get the correct texture. Stir the mixture with a spoon or use your hands to mix it up. Using your hands to mix the suspension may be more fun than using the spoon. Continue to add cornflour and water in very small amounts until the mixture has the texture of honey or syrup. The more cornflour you use, the thicker the mixture will be. Pour the mixture onto a baking tray on the table. Prod and poke the suspension with your fingers and notice how it moves and reacts to your touch.
Make a suspension with cornflour and water by mixing them together until they have the consistency of honey. To do the quicksand goo experiment, the suspension will normally need to be mixed with 10 parts of cornflour to one part water. When the mixture has the correct texture, try moving your fingers at different speeds through the suspension. Notice how the mixture reacts differently to the different speeds. The faster your finger moves, the more like a solid the mixture will act. Mix enough in a bowl that you can put your fist in the middle of it and push down to the bottom of the bowl. Notice how the mixture feels like it is pulling your fist down as you try to pull it out. Drop a plastic toy in the mixture and try to retrieve it to see how difficult it really is.
The cornflour monster experiment is an interesting way to see how a cornflour suspension reacts to sound and vibration. This experiment requires the use of a loose speaker and a tone generator. You can find free tone generators online and you can purchase an old speaker from a thrift store. All you need to do is connect the speaker wire to a receiver that your computer can be connected to as well. Once your speaker is playing sounds from your computer, place the speaker inside a gallon-sized storage bag or just on top of it. Pout the suspension on top of the covered speaker. Listen to different frequencies and volume levels from the tone generator and computer. Watch as the suspension turns into different shapes. Which frequencies make the mixture more active?
When more snow falls on top of glaciers each season, the snowfall compresses on top of itself and turns to solid ice. This added weight pushes the edges of the glacier outward. A scaled down example of this can be demonstrated using a cornstarch suspension. Pour the suspension on the centre of a sheet of waxed paper. Add a spoonful of the suspension from the mixing bowl onto the pile on the waxed paper. The pile represents the glacier and the added suspension is snowfall. Notice how the "glacier" reacts. Place some soil around the glacier and on top of the glacier, representing rocks that have been collected. What does the added "snowfall" do to the rocks and soil?
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