Research

Self-Assembling Ferrofluids

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Ferrofluidscolloidal suspensions made up of ferromagnetic nanoparticles and a carrier liquid–are known for their interesting and sometimes bizarre behaviors due to magnetic fields. The video above shows how, when subjected to an increasing magnetic field, a single droplet of a ferrofluid on a superhydrophobic surface will split into several droplets. The process is called static self-assembly, and it results from the ferrofluid seeking a minimum energy state relative to the force supplied by the magnetic field. Change the magnetic field and the droplets shift to the next energy minimum. But what happens when you change the magnetic field continuously and too quickly for the droplets to respond? A whole different set of structures and behaviors are observed (video link). This is dynamic self-assembly, a different ordered state only achieved when the ferrofluid is forceably kept away from the energy minima seen in the first video. For more, see the additional videos and the original paper. (Video credit: J. Timonen et al.; via io9)

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