How to show that sand is a solid that does not act like a liquid

What you need:

  • sand
  • two plastic cups
  • funnel
  • a ruler
  • water

What you do:

1. Half fill one of the cups with sand using the other cup and a funel. Does it flow to form a flat surface?

2. Completely fill the cup and use a ruler to level the top of the cup.

3. Fill the cup with water without spilling any water or sand. You will need to do this very slowly and carefully. Had the sand taken up all the space in the cup?


Why is sand a solid and not a liquid?

Sand is a solid that you find at beaches or in deserts. It is the result of stone that has eroded.

Sand is a solid because each grain of sand is just a very small solid that can hold its shape. When it is poured, the small grains of sand pile up on each other to form a small hill and not a flat surface. Furthermore, it does not completely fill the container like a liquid. While it may appear to do this, there are in fact lots of small spaces between the grains of sand. Each grain of sand is unable to flow to fill these small spaces. As a result, we can carefully pour water into a container of sand without spilling anything over the edge. We are able to do this because water is a liquid that can flow and fill the small spaces between the solid grains of sand.

Sand is a solid that appears to act like a liquid when, in actual fact, it does not.


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