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Jul 24th, 2013
 
Magnets make droplets dance
 
Researchers from Aalto University and Paris Tech have placed water droplets containing magnetic nanoparticles on strong water repellent surfaces and have made them align in various static and dynamic structures using periodically oscillating magnetic fields.
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This is the first time researchers have demonstrated reversible switching between static and dynamic self-assembly.

Self-assembly is a process in which multiple components form organized structures or patterns without external direction. The process is very interesting both for scientists and industry, because many natural systems rely on self-assembled structures and they can further inspire technological applications.

By using the new model system, the researchers demonstrated that static droplet patterns can transform reversibly into dynamic ones when energy is fed to the system via an oscillating magnetic field. The transition was observed to be complex and the most complicated patterns emerged when the energy feed was just enough to enter the dynamic self-assembly regime.

Fig: Water droplets containing magnetic nanoparticles on strong water repellent surfaces can be aligned in various static and dynamic structures using periodically oscillating magnetic fields.

In addition to the hard science behind the self-assembly, the droplet patterns are also visually captivating.

This work is part of the newly completed doctoral thesis of Jaakko Timonen at the Aalto University Department of Applied Physics. It is a multidisciplinary research, combining expertize in magnetic nanoparticle synthesis, superhydrophobic surfaces, and in-depth understanding of self-assemblies.

The results were published in Science on July 19, entitled “Switchable Static and Dynamic Self-Assembly of Magnetic Droplets on Superhydrophobic Surfaces”. (sciencemag.org)

 

 
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