July 19, 2013 12:18 pm
Ferrofluids—surely some of the most fascinating substances in the world—are liquids that can become strongly charged and do crazy things when affected by a magnetic field. For instance, look at this. This is wicked:
Little bits of easily magnetized material, like iron, says USCB, are mixed in a liquid. When a magnet is brought nearby, the whole thing just goes nuts, taking on complex shapes and structures.
In nature, molecules such as proteins can autonomously warp and fold themselves into new arrangements. Scientists want to create self-assembling synthetic structures that are as dynamic and versatile as the natural ones that drive life.
Physicist Jaakko Timonen at Aalto University in Finland and colleagues figured they could do that with ferrofluids, liquids that contain suspended magnetic nanoparticles and behave in strange ways when exposed to magnetic fields.
So, take a glob of ferrofluid, apply a magnetic field that slowly gets stronger over time and you get… this:
It sort of looks like dividing cells, but really it’s just the ferrofluid balls trying to maintain their even spacing in the presence of the ever-stronger external magnet.
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