Used in Hollywood and the advertising industry to create exotic special effects, ferrofluids are seemingly magical materials that are both liquid and magnetic at once. In a study published today in Physical Review B, Yale electrical engineering professor Hur Koser and colleagues from the University of Georgia and Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrate for the first time an approach that allows ferrofluids to be pumped by magnetic fields alone. The invention could lead to new applications for this mysterious material.
Developed in the 1960s by NASA scientists seeking a non-mechanical method for moving liquid fuels in outer space, ferrofluids are made up of magnetic nanoparticles suspended in liquids such as oil, water, or alcohol. Though numerous industrial, commercial, and biomedical applications for ferrofluids have since been created, the original goal-to pump liquids with no machinery-remained elusive, until now. (more…)