20 April, 2013

A To Z Challenge: Rheology And Redesigning Your Soap

Rheology is the study of how things flow and change, particularly the behavior of non-Newtonian fluids (fluids that do not obey typical laws of physics), which include foams, plastics, paints, and even everyday substances like the mayonnaise in your fridge. Rheology, following a bit of a mini-theme from the past couple letters of the alphabet, is yet another branch of physics.

A recent development in the field of rheology is a mechanism developed by a team of researchers at the University of Washington which produces the same effect as surfactants but without actual surfactants needing to be added to a substance. (A surfactant is the chemical found in soap that allows the soap to clean out oil and grease in water.) The new technology, called a microfluidics device, shoves molecules through slits one-tenth the width of a human hair which causes the molecules--in this case, water with detergent and salt--to deform and become significantly more viscous, with added elasticity.


(Note: This is a for-profit company website. I'm linking to it because it explains rheology; I cannot speak for the company itself or its products.)


What's the strangest substance you can think of? Do you use (or consume) any non-Newtonian fluids?

-----The Golden Eagle


Andrew Leon said...

Do colloids fit this category?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Added elasticity? Would that benefit the skin?

Spacerguy said...

Magnetic fluids are fascinating to look at and react to sound.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Is the surfactant chemical in soap bad for us? Is that why they wanted to remove it?

Liz said...

I saw a show where the guys walked on some non-Newtonian fluids. When their feet hit the surface, it became thick enough to support their weight.

I forget the show or why they chose to do this, but I do remember how much time they spent explaining the concept of a non-Newtoninan fluid.

Pat Hatt said...

I hope I don't eat of that, yuck.

Pearson Report said...

Wow! That's all I got! Why? - because I'm now going to have to research what all this means!

The learning curve just keeps getting sharper - you are certainly making sure I use my gray matter! :) :)

Thanks for the enlightenment, GE!


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I just wish they could find a way to take the iron out of my well water so it wouldn't turn my white clothing brown and orange.

Trisha F said...

Your blog is making my brain hurt, but only 'cause it's becoming choc-full of stuff I never knew before. :) Fascinating.

Thanks for sharing!

DWei said...

Dark matter comes to mind.

Jagoda said...

I didn't even know there was such a thing as non-Newtonian fluids.

Paul Tobin said...

I am amazed at this A-z Challenge and how you rise to the challenge so inventively and it has to be said so interestingly. I knew nowt about any of this stuff - thanks.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi GE - getting rid of the surfactants would really help the planet - no surfactants in waste water ..

Cheers Hilary

Charles Gramlich said...

Not sure I want to consume any of these. they might work their way right through my pores and back out.

J.L. Campbell said...

TGE, you have to wonder if some of the chemicals (like soaps and such) we come across in everyday life isn't bad for us.

Mark Means said...

It's amazing the stuff they keep coming up with....

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Was lye in that category of surfacants? I remember my grandmother saying they made soap with lye.

The Golden Eagle said...

Andrew: Doing a quick search for colloids, it sounds like they would fit the bill.

Alex: Who knows. I don't think they've tried using the substance on skin yet . . .

Spacerguy: I love watching the videos of magnetic fluids.

Diane: Actually, it's just cheaper to leave out surfactants. The idea is companies will want to use the new device to save money--and pass on the lower cost to consumers.

Liz: Water and corn starch. I've seen experiments of that, too!

Pat: LOL. I'd eat it, I think--provided it was food and not soap, of course.

Jenny: You're welcome! :) I feel like quoting Hercule Poirot at the moment--he always told people to use their little gray cells.

Susan: That would be nice.

Trisha: Glad you think so! Though I'm sorry to make your head hurt.

DWei: Interesting thought!

Jagoda: Well, now you know. :)

Paul: Thanks for the kind words. And you're welcome for the information--I'm always happy to post about science.

Hilary: Definitely!

Charles: Hmm. I don't really know; but I don't see why they would react to skin any differently from regular surfactant.

J.L.: I've been looking at the Environmental Working Group's site lately; a lot of popular and so-called "green" products get a terrible rating.

Mark: Indeed. :)

Lee: I don't believe so, as far as I know. It was just used because it's harsh and can clean well; it doesn't have the polar and non-polar tails of a surfactant.