Both inventors of the past centuries and scientists of today have found sophisticated ways to improve our lives with magnets – from compass magnetic heads to magnetic data storage devices to MRI body scanners.
All these technologies Rely on magnets made of solid materials. What if you could make a magnetic device out of liquids?
Scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) did just that with a modified 3D printer. Their findings, published earlier this week in the journal Science could lead to a revolutionary class of printable liquid devices for a variety of applications ̵
This means that by applying an external magnetic field, scientists can control liquid devices made in this way, "like Harry Potter's wand."
"We made a new material that is both fluid and magnetic. Nobody has seen that yet, "said Tom Russell, visiting scientist at Berkeley Lab and Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, who led the study. "This opens the door to a new field of science in magnetic soft matter."  WATCH : Students design a beach vacuum that can absorb microplastic and thereby leave all the sand behind
In the last few years Seven years ago, Russell, who leads a program called Adaptive Interface Structures for Liquid Liquids, has focused on developing a new class of materials: 3D printable all-liquid structures. Russell and Xubo Liu, the lead author of the study, had the idea to make fluid structures out of ferrofluids. These are solutions of iron oxide particles that become highly magnetic in the presence of another magnet.
"We asked ourselves: 'If a ferrofluid can temporarily become magnetic. What can we do to make it permanently magnetic and behave like a solid magnet, but still look and feel like a liquid? "Russell said.
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To find out, Russell and Liu used a 3D printing technique that helped them 1-millimeter droplets of ferrous ferrofluid solution printed -OAD nanoparticles with a diameter of only 20 nanometers (average size of an antibody protein).
Scientists Paul Ashby and Brett Helms of Berkeley Labs M Molecular foundry has shown that the nanoparticles form a solid-like shell at the interface between the two liquids. This is called "interfacial clogging" and causes the nanoparticles to accumulate on the surface of the droplets, "like the walls that gather in a small space packed with people," Russell said.
To make them magnetic, the scientists placed the droplets in solution through a magnetic coil. As expected, the magnet coil has pulled the iron oxide nanoparticles there.
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But when they are removed Something quite unexpected happened with the magnetic coil.
Like synchronized floats, the droplets sloshed together in perfect harmony, forming an elegant vortex "like little dancing droplets," Liu said. ( See video below … )
Somehow these droplets had become permanently magnetic. "We almost could not believe it," Russell said. "Before our study, people always assumed that permanent magnets can only be made from solids."
All magnets, no matter how big or small, have a north pole and a south pole. Opposite poles attract each other while the same poles repel each other.
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Using magnetometric measurements, the scientists found that all the north-south poles of the nanoparticles, when placing a magnetic field through a droplet, out of the 70 billion iron oxide nanoparticles floating in the droplet, up to 1 billion nanoparticles on the surface Surface of the droplet, reacted in unison like a solid magnet.
Decisive for this finding were the iron oxide nanoparticles that attach to the surface of the droplet. With just 8 nanometers between the billions of nanoparticles, they together formed a solid surface around each droplet of liquid.
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Shape Modification to Suit Their Environment
The researchers also found that the magnetic properties of the droplet were retained even when they divided a droplet into smaller, thinner droplets the size of a human hair, Russell added.
Amazing qualities that further emphasize Russell is that they change their shape to suit their environment. They transform from a bullet into a cylinder, into a pancake, into a hair-thin tube or even into the shape of an octopus – all without losing their magnetic properties.
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The droplets can also be set to switch between a magnetic and a non-magnetic mode. With magnetic mode enabled, movements can be remotely controlled using an external magnet, Russell added.
Liu and Russell plan to continue research at Berkeley Lab and other national labs to develop even more complex 3D prints. Magnetic liquid structures such as a liquid-printed artificial cell or miniature robot that resemble a tiny propeller for noninvasive and yet Targeted delivery of drug therapies to diseased cells.
"What started as a strange observation opened up a new field of science," Liu said. "That's what all the young researchers dream of, and I was fortunate enough to work with a large group of scientists who are supported by Berkeley Lab's world-class user facilities to make that happen," Liu said.
Reprinted by Berkeley Lab
( WATCH The Liquid in Action in the video below)
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