Oobleck: The Newest In Protective Gear

Have you ever made Oobleck? You can hold it in your hand and it’s a liquid, but hit it hard and it’s a solid. The name Oobleck comes from Dr. Suess’s Bartholomew and the Oobleck. We’ll tell you how to make it at the end of this blog. What does Oobleck mean to a motorcycle enthusiast? We’re interested in Oobleck because it’s a dilating non-Newtonian fluid - a fluid found in everyday protective gear. Here’s a product made with another dilating non-Newtonian fluid. Icon makes knees, elbows, shoulders, and spine protectors of the same stuff.

How does Ooblek work? Hey! This isn’t too hard. Water is a Newtonian fluid. If you slide your finger into a glass of water, it glides in easily. The water molecules are fluid and give way. If you poke your finger into the glass fast and with force, it still is easy. But if you fill a glass with a dilating non-Newtonian fluid, it’s easy to gently slide your finger into the liquid. But if you poke it with force, it’s not so easy. Poke hard enough and fast enough, and you’ll find the liquid is hard as a solid.

We have Ooblek-like fluid to thank for the new limber and lightweight protectors. They feel as though they’re filled with water when you wear them, but on impact, they become a crystalline solid that protects you. The magic ingredient is polyborodimethylsiloxane, an intelligent molecule that floats happily within the polyurethane protector until there’s an impact. Then it configures itself into a tough solid that absorbs much of the force. Duty done, it immediately returns to its fluid state.

Dr. Phil Green saw the need for such a substance back in 1999 when he bruised an elbow snowboarding. Then, all the available protectors were clunky and not very effective. He wanted to find an intelligent molecule that knew when to be fluid and move with you and when to lock together in a solid protective barrier. He and Richard Palmer isolated polyborodimethylsiloxane that same year and since then have been developing applications under the name D3O®.

D3O® is truly intelligent. In the protective insert, the liquid can transform into a solid and back again into a liquid in less than a thousandth of a second. Furthermore, the faster the impact, the more quickly the molecules react. Yes, it does seem like magic.

Once Richard Palmer was trying to explain D3O®. He was wearing a shirt that incorporated D3O® and he stood up and slammed his elbow on the table hard enough to send the coffee cups flying. He didn’t even flinch.

That’s the kind of protection you need. In this hot weather, lightweight, effective protection for knees, elbows, shoulders, and spine is important. Try a set of D3O® protectors and ride with confidence in comfort.

And now for the fun stuff. We learned how to make Oobleck on wikihow.

  • Put a cup of cornstarch in a large bowl and feel it so you have broken up any chunks and are comfortable with its texture.
  • If you want colored Oobleck, add a few drops of food coloring to ½ cup of water.
  • Stir the ½ cup of water into the cornstarch. You can scale the recipe up or down: just use twice as much cornstarch as water. Really mix the stuff, either with your hands or with a spoon.

The exact amount of water will vary, depending on how humid it is, how much food coloring you’ve used—even how warm or cold the water is. So take a handful and try to form a ball. If it’s too watery, add cornstarch a tablespoonful at a time and test after each addition. If it isn’t a runny liquid when you pick it up, add water a tablespoonful at a time. Notice what a difference it makes when you stir fast or slowly.

Now play around with it. You’ll find suggestions of things to try at the Wikihow article.

When you’re finished, wash your hands and so on with warm water. But don’t dump the bowl of Oobleck down the drain; it will clog the drain. You can store it in an air-tight container or bag to monkey around with later; you can throw it in the trash; you can let it dry into a powder you can sweep up or wipe up.

Have fun with Oobleck and tell us about it on the Eagle Leather Facebook page. And check out the lightweight, flexible, effective protective inserts made with the magical dilating non-Newtonian fluid D3O® either online or in the Eagle Leather store.

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