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Any magnet has two ends called poles where the magnetic effect is strongest.

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Credit: Andrew Magill
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill/333444116/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Invented in the 1960s, ferrofluid was initially used to help form seals in equipment where ordinary seals couldn't be used. Recent advancements in theory and modeling of ferrofluids have allowed it to be in various applications ranging from automobile shocks to drug deliver in the medical field.

Amazing But True

  • Ferrofluids are liquids that are made up of very small ferromagnetic particles. The small iron particles range in size from 5-10 nm in diameter. Each ferromagnetic particle is coated with a liquid that prevents clumping and lowers the surface tension. When a magnetic field is applied to a ferrofluid, the spikes can be seen that lie the direction of the magnetic field lines. The spikes that are seen are a result of the magnetic spheres inside the fluid lining up and making chains parallel to the magnetic field lines.
  • Since their invention in the 1960s, ferrofluids have been used in various fields. In aerospace, ferrofluids are used to reduce friction when magnets are required to slide across specific surfaces. In regards to automobiles, the shocks in some high end luxury cars use ferrofluids in their shock adsorbers to allow for a more pleasurable ride. Even the medical field is using ferrofluids as an application for magnetic drug targeting. With many more applications under research and with possible advancements in particle design, the future of ferrofluids is almost limitless.
  • Watch a video of ferrofluid sculptures:


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Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. If you didn't have a magnet, what else could you use to 'activate' a ferrofluid?
  2. The size of the particles in a ferrofluid are very important. Why do you suppose this is?
  3. If you were to cover a spherical magnet in a ferrofluid, what direction would the spikes point?

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    1. [1]^ Credit: Andrew Magill; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill/333444116/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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