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Are there any simple at-home experiments to test the relative viscosity of alcohol to water? If they are the same or practically the same, are there any household liquids that are less viscous than water? If so, how can I demonstrate this to first-graders?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

A common experiment would be to have two concentric cylinders. The outer one can rotate almost freely (with some slight and constant retardation/breaking applied), while the inner one is driven by a motor, like so. Between them is a layer of the liquid that you wish to determine the viscosity of. The speed of the outer cylinder is a measure for the viscosity.

However, since you want to explain this to first-graders, you might wanna start with something more obvious than the difference in viscosity between ethanol and water. How about the difference in viscosity between water and honey? As a demonstration experiment, you could use a funnel in which you pour an equal amount of either liquid, and then measure the time it takes until it has passed through the funnel. This should be more tangible and easier to understand. You could also prepare beakers with water, honey and maybe peanut butter, and have your students run a spatula through all of them. That way they can experience the difference in force that is necessary to move the spatula first hand.

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