Magnetic Snakes Create Water Current

Sep 24, 2007
Magnetic Snake
Alternating magnetic fields create snake-like chains of magnetic particles suspended in fluid. The snakes direct the flow of the surrounding fluid along their lengths, potentially leading to new methods to control fluids in chip-based chemical analysis. Credit: M. Belkin, A. Snezhko, I.S. Aranson, and W.-K. Kwok

Physicists at Argonne National Laboratory have found that magnetic particles suspended in water and subjected to an alternating magnetic field will form snake-shaped structures that can control the flow of the surrounding fluid.

Current incarnations of the magnetic snake are a few centimeters long, but the team envisions much smaller versions as pumps to manipulate liquids on microscopic scales or precursors for next-generation magnetic recording media in future computers. The team's recent experiment shows that the speed of the water flowing along the snake depends on how quickly the magnetic field alternates.

To make a magnetic snake, the team put a water-filled beaker at the center of a magnetic coil. In the water, they suspended magnetic nickel spheres a little smaller than one tenth of a millimeter in diameter. These particles reacted to an alternating magnetic field created by the coil. The nickel spheres aligned themselves head-to-tail with nearby particles as though they contained tiny bar magnets.

The movements of the particle chain made waves on the surface of the water, encouraging the formation of parallel chains and causing a segmented pattern. The self-assembly of the snakes can take anywhere from a fraction of a second to several minutes.

Citation: M. Belkin et at., Physical Review Letters, forthcoming article

Source: American Physical Society

Explore further: World's first photonic pressure sensor outshines traditional mercury standard

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Young star suggests our sun was a feisty toddler

Jun 05, 2013

If you had a time machine that could take you anywhere in the past, what time would you choose? Most people would probably pick the era of the dinosaurs in hopes of spotting a T. rex. But many astronomers would ...

NASA explores underground substructures below fault

Sep 26, 2012

(Phys.org)—The Surprise Valley Fault, a stretch of land that snakes along the Warner Mountain Range in northeastern California, is pocked with small surface scars and billows steam from hot springs, which ...

New Mars rover has a human approach

Jul 25, 2012

In a matter of days, a geologist unlike any on Earth will venture into alien territory. It has six legs and one arm. Instead of feet, it rides around on metal wheels as thin as cardboard. Its brain is in its ...

Accretion around a young star

Jul 24, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The star TW Hydrae is located about 150 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation of Hydrae, the Water Snake. This star is relatively young, about 10 million years old, and ...

Recommended for you

High-intensity sound waves may aid regenerative medicine

52 minutes ago

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a way to use sound to create cellular scaffolding for tissue engineering, a unique approach that could help overcome one of regenerative medicine's ...

Formula could shed light on global climate change

4 hours ago

Wright State University researchers have discovered a formula that accurately predicts the rate at which soil develops from the surface to the underlying rock, a breakthrough that could answer questions about ...

New world record for a neutron scattering magnet

5 hours ago

A unique magnet developed by the Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) and Germany's Helmholtz Centre Berlin (HZB) has reached a new world record for a neutron ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.