What Are Newtonian and Non-Newtonian Fluids?

Author: Sara Peters | October 22, 2015 | Category: Pumps, Mixing

honeyNewtonian fluid, non-Newtonian fluid, rheopectic, thixotropic, dilatant... what's the difference between these liquid properties? More importantly, what does it matter? If you're sizing or selecting pumps, mixers, or any other type of equipment that applies shear to fluid, these are all terms you should know. 

All fluids can be broken down into two basic types, Newtonian, and non-Newtonian.


A Newtonian fluid's viscosity remains constant, no matter the amount of shear applied for a constant temperature.. These fluids have a linear relationship between viscosity and shear stress.


  • Water
  • Mineral oil
  • Gasoline
  • Alcohol


You can probably guess that non-Newtonian fluids are the opposite of Newtonian fluids. When shear is applied to non-Newtonian fluids, the viscosity of the fluid changes. The behavior of the fluid can be described one of four ways:

  • Dilatant - Viscosity of the fluid increases when shear is applied. For example:
    • Quicksand
    • Cornflour and water
    • Silly putty
  • Pseudoplastic - Pseudoplastic is the opposite of dilatant; the more shear applied, the less viscous it becomes. For example:
    • Ketchup

This chart shows how viscosity changes in respect to the amount of shear or stress applied to the fluid.

Dilatant vs. Psudoplastic Viscosity

  • Rheopectic - Rheopectic is very similar to dilatant in that when shear is applied, viscosity increases. The difference here, is that viscosity increase is time-dependent. For example:
    • Gypsum paste
    • Cream
  • Thixotropic - Fluids with thixotropic properties decrease in viscosity when shear is applied. This is a time dependent property as well. For example:
    • Paint
    • Cosmetics
    • Asphalt
    • Glue

Want More Insider Information from Crane Engineering? CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE  TO OUR BLOG!

This chart shows how viscosity changes in respect to shear applied over time to the fluid.

Rheopectic vs. Thixotropic Viscosity

Why do you need to know the difference? It's important to fully understand the properties of the fluids you're transferring, mixing, or pumping because viscosity plays a major role in sizing and selecting equipment. Understanding how it reacts to shear will help you properly size and select all the equipment it touches. 

Need help with a viscous situation? Ask us about it! We gladly provide technical assistance to businesses in Wisconsin and upper Michigan.


Sara Peters

Sara Peters

Sara leads Crane Engineering's blogging team, coming up with fresh stories and insights for our readers to apply to their every day work.

Join your peers!
Subscribe to our blog for more tips, tools, and troubleshooting advice delivered right to your inbox.


Subscribe by email