Sneak peek: electronically controlled ferrofluid creatures

i was finally able to get a video recording using my rig of electromagnets controlling ferrofluid (shown in Whats everyone working on these days?)

my rig conisted of four electromagnets - three arranged in a triangle (or pyramid), and one vertical one in the center. the three outside magnets were controlled using amplified audio signals generated in max msp. i sent them three sine waves, all 120 degrees (or 2pi/3) out of phase, so that as they oscillated, they would produce a rotating magnetic field, and i was able to control the frequency and amplitude of all three together. the central magnet was hooked up to a lab grade variable DC power supply, which i could adjust manually with a knob to increase or decrease a static EM field to hold the ferrofluid blob in the center.

the magnet controlled with the DC power supply got really hot in the process, and ended up melting the thermoplastic i used to mount the whole thing together. i was able to jury-rig it long enough to get my recording, but eventually it got so hot that all 4 magnets fell out of the rig and it was destroyed. if i ever want to do any more recording, i will need to figure out a new way to mount them.

i don’t have any sound yet, but i did record the signals i used to control the magnets as an audio file, and sync it with the footage. since it’s below audio frequency, it doesn’t sound like anything, but i can use it as a modulation source for audio synthesis once i get to make sound for this piece. (but since i need to focus all my energy into writing my thesis this week, i’m not sure yet when that will be.)

since i’ve been really into chaos theory, turbulence, and fluid motion, i’m really excited to finally see this project to fruition. i am not ready to share it as a “finished piece” yet without sound, but thought i’d share some behind-the-scenes process info here.

and some fluid dynamics material i was inspired by:


:heart_eyes: :heart_eyes: :heart_eyes:

thanks so much for the behind the scenes documenting !

the video is really mesmerising, how is it that those little blobs are so relatable ? i felt very fond (and sometimes protective) of them in only 10 minutes. i wonder how you relate to them (and they to you ?)

also something about this reminded me of that scene in fantasia where all the broom sticks are multiplying… haha

really looking foward to the finished piece - without sound even the video seems to sync up perfectly to the music i was listening too

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i feel like it’s impossible not to project emotions onto the dynamics of their behavior. soft sea creatures like jellyfish and eels, and microorganisms use fluid dynamics to their advantage in order to move around, and the ferrofluid blobs do pretty much the same thing since they displace the water around them, create vortexes, and attract and repel each other. at different times they seem fearful, excited, calm, or maybe performing some kind of mating dance? i think of them as my little test subjects in the lab. very interested in parallels between electronic systems and biology.

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Wow this is really mesmerizing. I agree that they feel like characters, and I end up creating some sort of abstract plot in my head when they join and split. Your rig with the coils and plastic is so beautiful as well.

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Beautiful stuff! Like watching flocks of birds sped up, other times like sea creatures and anemones. I’d love to see what it looks like in slow-motion and zoomed in.

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I love it that ferro fluid always looks like it is computer animated because it looks so impossible !
The black color with ‘simple’ shading is adding to the cause :slight_smile:

anyway, I love your works!

a tip: check out non Newtonian fluids and the effects when mounted on a speaker
If you make it with maizena (starch powder), you can get this effect in white color!
/ or any other color, if you add coloring pigment.


thank you !! i did some work with cymatics last year, it was really fun. i’ve actually been wanting to play more with the corn starch stuff, i love the creatures they form, id love to try and shoot them in a way that goes beyond the “heres this cool thing whoa” type videos on youtube.

here is a piece i did using cymatics last year, with just water and lighting:


wow super inspiring this is so neat

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really great stuff. thanks for sharing :metal:

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Would be interesting to drive this with a complex audio signal (music or otherwise) passed through four very narrow bandpass filters in parallel.

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