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Researchers have revealed the first ever liquid magnet that can stay magnetic even when changing its shape — an attractive prospect for developing fluid robots.
The liquid is made of nano-scale particles of metal floating in solution — which normally would only behave as a magnet when in the presence of a magnetic field.
Mixture - Team - Particles - Surface - Liquid
But by using a special oil-polymer mixture, the team succeeded in jamming the particles so close together at the surface of the liquid that they can stay magnetic.
The pioneering discovery changes our understand of magnetic materials and could find manifold practical applications in the future.
University - Massachusetts - Scientist - Thomas - Russell
University of Massachusetts material scientist Thomas Russell and his colleagues spent seven years developing a simple method to transform so-called 'paramagnetic ferrofluids' — plain metal particles floating in a liquid — into permanent magnets.
Most solid, permanent magnets, as you might find on your fridge at home, are what scientists call 'ferromagnetic'. Once exposed to a magnetic field, the spins of their electrons align and stay that way unless heated above a critical temperature.
Materials - Particles - Liquid - 'ferrofluid
Ferromagnetic materials can be broken down into nano-sized particles and suspended in a liquid, creating a so-called 'ferrofluid'.
These are presently used in various technologies, being used to make rotating seals that protect the drive shafts in hard discs, and to help to cool loudspeakers.
Ferrofluids - Presence - Field - Field - Particles
Ferrofluids, however, are only magnetic when placed in the presence of an externally-made magnetic field. As soon as the field is removed, the individual particles are free to move and the overarching magnetisation is lost.
Professor Russell and his team, however, found that drops of ferrofluids can stay magnetised if the particles are jammed close enough together on the surface...
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