Magnetic Snakes Create Water Current

September 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: Young star suggests our sun was a feisty toddler

Related Stories

Young star suggests our sun was a feisty toddler

June 5, 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 choose the ...

X-Ray Emission from Young Stars

February 5, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 -- at about 10 million years old it has passed ...

Accretion around a young star

July 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 has passed out ...

NASA explores underground substructures below fault

September 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 makes it an ideal ...

A new twist on an old nebula

December 16, 2004

One of the nearest and brightest planetary nebulae has a surprisingly complex 3-D structure In a process comparable to that of an artist who turns a two-dimensional canvas into a three-dimensional work of art, astronomers ...

Recommended for you

MEMS chips get metatlenses

February 20, 2018

Lens technologies have advanced across all scales, from digital cameras and high bandwidth in fiber optics to the LIGO lab instruments. Now, a new lens technology that could be produced using standard computer-chip technology ...

Reaching new heights in laser-accelerated ion energy

February 20, 2018

A laser-driven ion acceleration scheme, developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde, could lead to compact ion sources for established and innovative applications in science, medicine and industry.

Using organoids to understand how the brain wrinkles

February 20, 2018

A team of researchers working at the Weizmann Institute of Science has found that organoids can be used to better understand how the human brain wrinkles as it develops. In their paper published in the journal Nature Physics, ...

0 comments

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.