Today we’re serving up the final project in our science fair series — it’s all about magnets and viscosity. Viscosity is the thickness of a liquid and its resistance to flowing. It relates to the size and shape of the particles that make up the liquid and that attraction between them. Low viscosity liquids flow quickly, and high viscosity liquids flow slowly. 

Viscosity can also impact an object’s magnetism, so in this project, we’re looking at how different liquids impact magnets. It’s perfect for an age range from Kindergarten to 6th grade. As always, here’s your friendly reminder to always handle magnets with care. Refer to our safety tips for more information. 

Project #3: Floating Magnets — Measuring How Liquid Impacts Magnets

Examples of lower viscosity liquid include water, vegetable oil, or rubbing alcohol. Liquids with high viscosity include honey, molasses, and corn syrup. Using several very basic materials, you can explore and evaluate more about how viscosity affects magnets. 

Materials & Goal

Gather your materials, including three types of liquids (water, corn syrup, and vegetable oil). 

You need the following items and materials to complete this science project: 

  • Strong magnets
  • 3 identical drink glasses
  • ½ water 
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 12 paper clips

The goal of this science experiment is to test how the type of liquid and viscosity impact magnetism. 

4 Steps to Evaluate Magnetism In Different Viscosities 

  1. Fill a glass with water; fill one glass with vegetable oil; fill one glass with corn syrup.
    • Set them up in a row on a flat surface.
  2. Put 4 paper clips in each glass. 
    • Note: You may need to gently push the paper clips to the bottom of the corn syrup.
  3. Test your magnet to make sure it attracts the paper clips outside of the liquid; observe how they move.
  4. Use the strong magnet to draw the paper clips to the side of the glass; observe how the objects move in the different types of liquid.

Test Three Different Liquids for Magnetism

Before beginning your tests, record a hypothesis about how the paper clips will move through each type of liquid. 

  1. Test (first liquid)
  • Record the type of liquid: water.
  • Complete steps above to evaluate magnetism in low viscosity.
  • Observe the reaction of the paper clips; record your observations in a notebook (“Fast,” “Mid-speed,” “Slow.”)
  1. Test (second liquid)
  • Record the type of liquid: vegetable oil.
  • Complete steps above to evaluate magnetism in low viscosity.
  • Observe the reaction of the paper clips; record your observations in a notebook (“Fast,” “Mid-speed,” “Slow.”)
  1. Test (third liquid)
  • Record the type of liquid: corn syrup.
  • Complete steps above to evaluate magnetism in low viscosity.
  • Observe the reaction of the paper clips; record your observations in a notebook (“Fast,” “Mid-speed,” “Slow.”)

Analyze Data

You can’t take an exact measurement of how quickly the paper clips move through the liquid, but through observation, you can take and record notes on a scale (“Fast,” “Mid-speed,” and “Slow.”) Once you’ve completed the test for all three liquids, reflect on your results. 

Analyze your data and draw conclusions about which liquid was most and least viscous. How does that data compare to your hypotheses?

Get The Latest News of Magnets in the Universe

We hope you enjoyed our series of magnetic science fair projects. If you haven’t, visit Magnetic Science Fair Projects, Part 1: How Permanent Magnet Strength  Varies with Temperature and Magnetic Science Fair Projects, Part 2: Measuring Iron in Cereal.