Wonderful Engineering

Scientists Create Permanent Liquid Magnets By Mistake

Magnets can take all kinds of forms; we have the ones that are used for pinning paper on refrigerators or the electromagnets that are comprised of copper and wire. Despite their different shapes and purposes; they are generally solids. However, for the very first time, scientists have managed to create a permanently magnetic liquid and have done so by mistake.

The discovery was made at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California. It enables scientists to manipulate the magnetic matter. Thomas Russell is a distinguished professor of polymer science and engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was the senior author on the paper and stated that scientists could ‘make magnets that are liquid, and they could conform to different shapes—and the shapes are really up to you.’

It all began when the research team was carrying out an examination of iron oxides or chemical compounds that are comprised of iron and oxygen. The eventual lead author and grad student Xubo Liu was observing a 3D printed object that was made up of the material and realized that its particles were spinning in a union. It was evident soon enough that the complete object was spinning.

This led scientists to proceed to create tiny droplets from oil, water, and iron oxides. Then, after separating the droplets, the researchers placed them close to a magnetic coil, thus magnetizing them. However, the fact that these droplets remain magnetized is what really amazed the scientists. They are not completely sure about what happened. They write in their study, ‘The permanent magnetization could be controlled by coupling and uncoupling the magnetization of individual nanoparticles, making it possible to ‘write and erase’ shapes of the droplets or to elongate them into cylinders.’

The study was published in Science. Russell said, ‘For me, it sort of represents a sort of new state of magnetic materials.’