Understanding how to reliably measure viscosity

Viscosity is the ease in which a fluid flows – in other words, how thick a fluid is. So, for example, mercury is thicker than water and therefore has a higher viscosity.

But why do we need to know this and how do we measure it?

Knowing the viscosity of a fluid (and fluid doesn’t necessarily mean a liquid, it can also be a paste) is key to ensuring that it flows as it should. Brake fluid, for example transmits force through the braking system of a vehicle. That system wouldn’t work correctly if the fluid’s viscosity were different. And no one wants to drive a car with brakes that don’t work properly.

Sunscreen also depends on well-characterized viscosity so that you can spread it across your skin. If it wasn’t viscous, it would drip all over you before you rubbed it in.

Viscosity is measured using a viscometer. In general, either the fluid remains stationary and an object moves through it, or the object is stationary and the fluid moves past it. The drag caused by the relative motion of the fluid and a surface allows a measure of the viscosity.

To measure viscosity, a fluid sample is needed. Recently, RheoSense introduced the m-VROC viscometer which reliably and accurately measures viscosity with as little as 50 microlitres of sample. This capability is unmatched in the industry. It significantly reduces material costs when testing expensive samples and preserves precious materials.

In cases where extremely small sample volumes are needed, the m-VROC viscometer can be used to make reliable and accurate viscosity measurements with sample volumes as low as 20 microlitres. Other products on the market require nearly four times as much sample to perform a viscosity measurement. The m-VROC has an advantage for testing expensive and limited early stage drugs, for example.

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