How to Make Conductive Play Dough.

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Introduction: How to Make Conductive Play Dough.

About: I'm still working on my electronics skills. If you see a flaw in any of my crazy plans, feel free to let me know!

All credits go to the people over at the squishy circuits website.

I was on hackaday earlier this year and I found an article on squishy circuits.  I thought making circuits from play dough sounded like a very interesting idea.  I did some research into it and it seemed simple enough; different ingredients created different values of resistance and so on.  I thought about it, and decided that I had to make some for myself.  I threw some together and it worked great!  In this instructable I will provide the recipe for conductive dough, insulating dough, as well as some ideas for circuits you can build out of it.  I think this has enormous potential in a classroom setting, being able to teach students how circuits work, something that I didn't even understand until about three years ago.  I can just imagine a whole class of students showing off their creations that glow, and make cool noises.

Step 1: Conductive Dough

In order to make the conductive dough, you will need the following:

1 cup Water
1 1/2 cups Flour
1/4 cup Salt
3 Tbsp. Cream of Tartar*
1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
Food Coloring

*9 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice may be Substituted

Mix water, 1cup of flour, salt, cream of tartar, vegetable oil, and food coloring in a medium sized pot.

Cook over medium heat and stir continuously.

The mixture will begin to boil and start to get chunky.

Keep stirring the mixture until it forms a ball in the center of the pot.

Once a ball forms, place the ball on a lightly floured surface.

Slowly knead the remaining flour into the ball until you’ve reached a desired consistency.

Step 2: Insulating Dough

In order to make the insulating dough, you will need the following:

1 1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Water

Mix solid ingredients and oil in a pot or large bowl, setting aside ½ cup flour to be used later.

Mix with this mixture a small amount of  water (about 1 Tbsp.) and stir.

Repeat this step until a majority of the water is absorbed by the mixture.

Once your mixture is at this consistency, knead the mixture into one “lump”.

Knead more water into the dough until it has a sticky, dough-like texture.

Now, knead the flour into the dough, until a desired texture is reached.

Step 3: Circuit Ideas

Some provided on the website are: building a circuit with lights, using the conductive dough as a variable resistor, connecting buzzers, motors, LED's, basically anything that could use this to replace wire.  I will be posting more instructables soon on projects involving the play dough.  If you prefer to have the electronics in a kit, check the squishy circuits store.  Please rate, vote, subscribe, and leave comments!  

EDIT:  I will give a pro account to whoever comes up with the best idea to use this play dough for, so leave a comment and you can win a free pro membership!

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    77 Comments

    Can you bake it in the oven or heat it up to make it more rigid and strong? Will it still guide electricity?

    will the play dough heat up if the battery leads are connected directly to a thin strand ?

    3 replies

    The dough has pretty high resistance, so a short across it shouldn't cause too much heat...

    At lower voltages.

    If you use PlayDo dount eat it. (PlayDo is toxic)

    PlayDough is made for kids. It isn't toxic. Not in the normal sense of the word, any more than the bread you buy from grocery stores. Please don't make this stuff up.

    Cream of tartar is commonly used in foods without any problems related to a 'laxative' effect.

    Hail impact penetration evaluation system.

    Layering the dough like a series of pancake. Each layer separated of the next by a thin layer of non conductive dough. The top layer is the one providing the current.

    An object penetrating the layers compress/blend the layers that it penetrate allowing the current to pass between each other. Thus giving a rough estimate of how deep the object went.

    This sensor can be used to evaluate cheaply the penetration power of any small object. (Hail, Falling object [Science project], impact of a slug from a sling shot, CSI style [knife penetration], meteorite [I must be hallucinating], etc.)

    The only drawback is that it cannot be reset. But so what, it so cheap do make.

    This can be use by school or anyone else.

    IDEA: try usong as an extention cord ( if figure out how to not get it stuck in sockets)

    IDEA: try usong as an extention cord ( if figure out how to not get it stuck in sockets)

    IDEA: try usong as an extention cord ( if figure out how to not get it stuck in sockets)

    will the play dough harden and if so how quickly?
    (play dough used, not play dough stored)

    1 reply

    STEM lesson for my Brownies group! What better way to help young ladies learn about circuits than letting their imaginations go wild with play dough!

    If i were (and i may be in the process of doing this) to find some bouncy play-doh, kneed in some iron powder so it would be magnetic, and then do this to it, would it still bounce, be conductive, and be magnetic? also, is the iron powder alone enough to make it conductive (the doh was NOT conductive to begin with due to it being a knock-off called bouncy-doh).

    2 replies

    Possible, what you mean by do this to it. But I'd imagine the iron would make it conductive already.

    Hi - I'm trying to help my 4th grader design a science project with only one variable. Her original idea was to see whether cookie dough or pizza dough was more conductive (not workable - too many variables). Could you instead suggest two recipes for playdough where only one ingredient differs - and that might give her interesting results as far as conductivity or resistance? What can I say - I'm a musician :).