Videos of ferrofluids in art and science

Wired's Adam Mann and Nurie Mohamed have a good roundup of a dozen-plus ferrofluid videos, showing off the remarkable aesthetics created at the intersection of magnets, liquid, and metal filings. Not every one of these videos did it for me, but there are some absolute corkers in the lot.

The black liquid mixture is known as a ferrofluid, and is made up of nano-sized, iron-containing particles suspended in water or an organic solvent. When a magnetic field is applied, the ferrofluid puffs out, creating some alien-looking shapes and formations.

Video: Bizarre Magnetic Ferrofluids Will Blow Your Mind



  1. No, that’s not veg oil and toner.  It’s definitely a lab quality fluid.  The suspension is too regular, and the fluid progression too smooth to not be using a surfactant.

    Does anyone have any idea what they coated the spires with to make the ferrofluid slide off so well?  Normally it leaves behind a nasty brown haze on pretty much anything it touches.  

    1. Since I can read the article, and did, I knew that before you leapt to prove me wrong. 

      But veg oil and toner does make a ferrofluid.

      A cheap one, available to you. You might enjoy it. Maybe not. 

  2. Ferrofluids are more than just pretty. They make great fluidic bearings, allowing high RPMs with low noise and no wear (commonly used in disk drives). Even more importantly, they can be used as seals to allow sliding and rotating bits to pass through the walls of even ultra-high vacuum chambers, giving direct mechanical control of what’s going on inside. (High vacuum is the secret sauce behind most of the high technology of the last century.)

    Other common applications:
    Controllable suspension dampers allow changing stiffness in milliseconds. The controllable variable density of ferrofluids allows separating out the different mineral components of ores. Some speaker designs take advantage of the cooling and resonance-damping properties of ferrofluids.

    Emerging applications:
    Pumps with no moving parts for cooling and other applications. Shape-shifting mirrors. Transformers, solenoids, switches, magnetic circuits. Microfluidic valves and actuators. Drug delivery carriers controlled by magnetic fields. Cancer therapies where the ferro-particles accumulate where there is a static magnetic field, then kill the tumor when heated by an AC magnetic field. MRI contrast agents. Sensors of acceleration, pressure, vibration, density,  and fluid level.

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