Viscosity is a key parameter for characterising the behaviour of liquids and their flow. It is, however, difficult to measure precisely, reproducibly and accurately for aqueous solutions on a micro-litre volume scale, which is what is usually needed for biological samples. We report the development of a new method for measuring dynamic viscosity by measuring dynamic light scattering (DLS) data for a range of particles of well-defined size. Most applications of DLS involve determining particle size for samples of known viscosity. We inverted the usual protocol and endeavoured to determine viscosity for samples of known particle size. Viscosity measurements for water and aqueous solutions of calf thymus DNA made using DLS were compared with those from a U-tube viscometer. The styrene particles, frequently used as particle size standards, gave unsatisfactory results for our DNA samples as did C-6 derivatized silica and positively charged amino polystyrene microspheres. However, negatively charged carboxylate polystyrene microspheres particles readily gave accurate viscosity measurements over a range of temperatures (0–100 °C). The sample volume required depends on the cuvette used to measure DLS, but can be performed with samples sizes ranging from 40 to 3000 μL. The sample can then be recovered for subsequent experiments. The DLS method is simple to perform at different temperatures and provides data of accuracy significantly above that of a U-tube viscometer. Our results also indicate a way forward to account accurately for solution viscosity in the normal applications of DLS to particle size determination by including the appropriate non-interacting particles as an internal standard.
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