Most of my friends I assumed were probably fed up with me going on about how great science is…… how they should be more interested…..why chemistry should be their favourite science, why scientists sho……ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Even if this is true, some of my persistent nagging appears to be bearing fruit. Today I was sent an amazing ‘sciencey’ video by my non-scientist friend American Dave. Thanks American Dave that is AAAAWWWEEESOOOOME. Take note all other friends: I now expect the same of you.
The liquid is made up of nano-particles of iron containing – and therefore magnetic – compounds. These particles are about a 100,000th of a millimeter in diameter and are first coated in a surfactant to prevent them from sticking together, before being suspended in a ‘carrier fluid’. The carrier fluid can be water or an organic solvent (I think it depends on your iron compound) and it basically just gives your particles something to move about in.
The orientation of the particles in the solution is initially random, but when you bring a magnet near to the liquid all of the individual particles begin to line up – imagine sticking a magnet in a bag of nails. Once the particles line up, the “solution” itself becomes polarised and behaves like millions of little magnetics all attracting and repelling each other, moving around and resulting in the beautiful patterns that you can see in the video.
Ferrofluids are not just pretty, they have a host of applications from electronics to medicine. They are in your computer hard drives, used as contrast reagents in MRI scanners, and can be found in space craft. I’nt chemisty brilllliant….
Here is another beautiful and completely distinct (on a visual scale anyway) liquid sculpture.