Magneto Serum - A potential panacea

Though the name sounds very cool and straight out of a science-fiction franchise , what I’m referring to is actually called a ferro-fluid , but make no mistake , this liquid’s abilities are very near sci-fi.

A ferro-fluid is basically a colloidal sol , made up of 3 components which are, nano-sized particles of a ferromagnetic substance like haematite or magnetite, a liquid dispersion medium and a surfactant ( citric acid for example) which prevents the nanoparticles from clumping together and depositing .

What’s special about this fluid is that it gets strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field , because of the ferromagnetic nanoparticles of course. This liquid can be moved around without using a fluid pump of any sort but by a magnetic field alone.


Ferro-fluid in presence of a magnetic field

lines of force

The magnetic lines of force around a bar magnet

As you can see , the shape sustained by the ferro-fluid is due to the nanoparticles aligning themselves with the magnetic lines of force and due to surface tension of the liquid(dispersion medium).

It was first developed by Steve Papell of NASA in 1963 with a goal of transporting liquid fuel in zero gravity and vacuum using magnets , though it wasn’t realized due to some practical limitations, ferro-fluids are very efficient in some applications in the present, like they’re being used as a replacement for dampers in speakers making them energy efficient and able to produce better sound quality. They’re also being used for reducing friction in certain mechanical arrangements, also this liquid maybe used to harvest energy from vibrations more efficiently than the solids currently being used, however the most ambitious and attention grabbing application of this weird looking thing is in medicine.

Drug Pilot

Ferro fluids can be driven by magnetic fields , it is this property which makes it possible to use it as a carrier of a drug to administer it to a specific target organ and thereby reduces the chances of the drug acting on non target organs which might cause some side effects.

Cure for cancer ?

This is the coolest and most ambitious idea of all regarding ferro fluids . The current cancer treatment methods have a drawback that there is a chance of the tumor growing back once it’s gone ,because often only the cells on the outer side of the tumor are eliminated and not the ones in its core , whereas in the case of ferro fluids as the particles are tiny enough to pass in and out of the cells’ membranes and as the fluid’s movement can be driven by a magnetic field , the idea as suggested by Thomas Webster , Director of Nanomedicine laboratory Northwestern University , is to get this liquid into the targeted cells at the core of the tumor by appropriately applying a magnetic field and heating it up by doing the same, till a certain temperature at which the cancerous cell dies, also at that temperature a normal cell endures no damage ( which is around 42-430 celcius) .

Research is being done on this and it has been only used on mice until now. This might be yet another example of how nanoscience is bringing about a revolution in modern technology.

This creepy looking material maybe having marvelous potential , but watching it is surely a feast for the eyes :)


Check it out yourself :

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