Ferrofluid Art Display

Posted on Feb 6, 2014

Several milliliters of ferrofluid exhibiting acute normal-field instability due to the magnetic field created by a neodymium iron boron magnet beneath the cup The goal of this project was to create a visually appealing and mathematically interesting art installation using a special kind of magnetically sensitive fluid called a ferrofluid. The pro

Ferrofluid Art Display
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ject was inspired by the work of two Japanese researchers-turned-artists, Sachiko Kodama and Yasushi Miyajima, whose most recent creation, Morpho Towers, uses the magnetic properties of ferrofluids to visualize complex waveforms in three dimensions. Wanting to replicate the same effect, but include an additional level of control, we designed a housing that contained 19 individually addressable solenoids arranged in a symmetrical heaxgonal array, and mounted small neodymium-iron-boride magnets to the shafts of each electromechanical element. Then, with the help of a few specialized circuits and some custom-written software running on the NU32 PIC, it was our hope to bring all 19 elements under computerized control via a graphical user interface running on a laboratory PC. Through this interface, a user, or another piece of software, could actuate the solenoids up and down, altering the shape of the fluid`s surface by changing the strength of the magnetic field normal to it. A video of the fluid in action can be seen here. Like all large projects, our art display underwent several stages of design evolution before settling into its final form. Each stage was marked by a specific physical design, with each design possessing its own advantages and disadvantages. As time went on, the designs changed to accommodate an update in our direction, to take advantage of newly acquired supplies or materials, or to overcome unanticipated...

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