If you’ve seen those videos with fascinating ink-like fluid spiraling into thorns and prickling patterns, you’ve seen Magnetic Ferrofluid. But what exactly is this stuff, and why does it act that way? Is it really some type of liquid magnet? Perhaps more importantly, can you get some? Let’s dive in!
The typical Ferrofluid Magnetic you see in viral videos is made by mixing a bunch of very, very small bits of iron oxide with oil, and usually some kind of surfactant to prevent the pieces from clogging together. The most common kind of iron oxide used in ferrofluid is known as magnetite, because — you guessed it — it’s a ferromagnetic material that’s not only attracted to magnets, but that can also be magnetized and turned into a permanent magnet itself. Ferrofluid is basically little bits of this stuff suspended in goo; that’s the easy answer.
The more complicated explanation is all about nanoparticles. Back in the 1960s, experiments in chemistry showed that ferrofluids could be created and stabilized — a discovery actually made by NASA while searching for ways to control liquid fuel in the weightlessness of space.
If you’re more of a DIY-minded person, you can even create your own Magnetic Ferrofluid, although it’s significantly more dangerous than just buying a bottle.
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