Research

The Cheerios Effect and Tiny Swimmers

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Anyone who has eaten a bowl of Cheerios is familiar with the way solid objects floating on a liquid surface will congregate. This is a form of capillary force driven by the wetting of the particles, surface tension, and buoyancy. Using ferromagnetic particles and a vertical magnetic field, one can balance capillary action and lock the particles into a fixed configuration relative to one another. By adding a second, oscillating magnetic field, it’s possible to make the beads dance and swim together. Like all of this week’s videos, this video is an entry in the 2013 Gallery of Fluid Motion. (Video credit: M. Hubert et al.)

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