In 1963, Steve Papell, a scientist at NASA, invented ferrofluid, a special type of liquid that gets strongly magnetized under the influence of a magnetic field. Although originally developed as a liquid rocket fuel, this fascinating material boasts a wide variety of applications, in mechanical engineering, materials science and even medicine. In recent years, it has also been used by artists, thanks to the unique shapes and patterns it creates in the presence of a magnetic field. Alabama-based electrical engineer, Matt Robison has come up with yet another use for ferrofluids, in the form of a spectacular interactive sculpture designed to help you deal with office blues.
Known as Ferroflow, the product combines technology and art into what is claimed as the “first fully automatic ferrofluid sculpture”. Likened to a high-tech lava lamp, it contains a suspended ferromagnetic fluid, that dances around in the presence of electromagnetic currents. To turn it on, you only need to tap the top half of the cylinder, immediately upon which the liquid starts jumping around inside the bottle. A knob, in the front, allows the user to adjust the speed of the fluid’s motions.
The sculpture features a shiny anodized aluminium top, a transparent glass body and a stainless steel base. When plugged into a power source, the product’s capacitive touch circuit detects the user’s touch, and in turn activates a microcontroller. Unlike similar ferrofluid designs, the Ferroflow uses an inexpensive N52 rare earth magnet to generate a strong magnetic field. This agitates the iron nanoparticles present in the liquid, causing it to form stunningly unique spikes and droplets. Once the magnetic field weakens, the fluid falls back to the bottom of the cylinder.
The sculpture comes with a smaller ferrofluid display that allows the user to manipulate the liquid by moving a magnet directly against the glass surface. According to Robison, one of the major problems he faced, while designing the sculpture, was the fact that ferrofluids often break down in the presence of other liquids. Additionally, they are known to easily stain glass. He worked alongside CZFerro, a group of artists who specialize in ferrofluid art, to develop a special type of suspension liquid and a display that remains unstained for a long time.
Buyers can choose from three color choices: black, purple or gold ferrofluid. Priced at around $300, the Ferroflow is undergoing a Kickstarter campaign, till September 24.