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Magnetic Materials for 3D Printing

Magnetic Materials for 3D Printing

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have made a scientific breakthrough by developing an enhanced 3D-material with magnetic properties.

“We’ve made a new material that is both liquid and magnetic. No one has ever observed this before. This opens the door to a new area of science in magnetic soft matter”, explained Tom Russell, the leader of the group that conducted the study. He devoted the last 7 years of his career to 3D printing of liquid structures.

It is expected that this breakthrough will allow to create artificial cells using 3D printing, which will effectively help in healing  diseased body cells. With the help of the discovery, it will be possible to create liquid robots, which will easily adapt to the surrounding environment.

Creating liquid structures from ferrofluids

Xubo Liu is the lead specialist who worked on the discovery. Together with Tom Russel they worked for a long time on the creation and study of the ferromagnetic fluids properties. “We wondered, ‘If a ferrofluid can become temporarily magnetic, what could we do to make it permanently magnetic, and behave like a solid magnet but still look and feel like a liquid?”, Russel explains.

With the help of 3D printing, the scientists have been creating drops with the thickness of 1mm containing  iron oxide nanoparticles. These particles joined together and created a whole solid shell on the surface of the drop.

Next these drops were put in a magnetic solution to gain magnetic properties. This has been achieved. But the fact, that all the drops connected and became permanently magnetized when they removed the magnetic coil, was a complete surprise for the scientists.

“We almost couldn’t believe it. Before our study, people always assumed that permanent magnets could only be made from solids”, Tom said.

In addition to being permanently magnetic, the drops can change their shape depending on the environment without losing their properties. The scientist also explained that this mode can be controlled by turning on and off the magnetic field, and when the magnetic mode is on, the material can be controlled remotely.

“What began as a curious observation ended up opening a new area of science. It’s something all young researchers dream of, and I was lucky to have the chance to work with a great group of scientists supported by Berkeley Lab’s world-class user facilities to make it a reality”, Liu said.

Right now, Xubo Liu and Tom Russell are actively working on a new area of science which they themselves discovered. You can get more information on the laboratory’s website.

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If you’re interested in 3D printing, but don’t know where to start, check out this buyer’s guide. It’ll help figure out what machine you need.


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