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Field lines in 3D

Iron filings in a sugar solution make the 3D effect possible
Author: Thomas Heuschneider, Rum, Innsbruck, Austria
Online since: 03/02/2011, Number of visits: 81848
I have been interested in the effects of physical forces for a long time. It’s just a pity that you can’t see them, or can you?
Normally, relatively complex simulations are necessary for more complicated field line images. A nice little gadget I found here at supermagnete.nl made me start a small series of experiments. The foil with the impressive sounding name Flux Detector can show wonderful 2-dimensional field line images, but that was not enough for me. It had to be in 3D when you can already buy films in 3D. The item description stated: "It’s accomplished by a foil filled with nickel particles in a gelatinous suspension."
"I can do that too", I thought to myself and got started.
What followed was a series of unsuccessful experiments with various, as clear as possible, gel-like substances I happened to have at hand. I tried different gelatine mixtures, I tried candle gel wax with petroleum and similar hydrocarbons to give it a slightly thinner consistency. When none of it worked, I remembered that sugar dissolved in water creates quite a viscous mixture. That was the solution to my problem, and I immediately added some iron filings. That’s how the following pictures and short video came about.
I used 2 disc magnets type S-10-02-N. One could, of course, use any kind of magnet as long as it isn’t too strong. Ring magnets, for example, show even more beautiful field lines. You just have to dissolve a lot of sugar in warm water for the sugar solution. The more sugar, the slower the iron filings will settle.
For the video, I used a relatively thin sugar solution to show the movement of the iron filings. However, if you want to take pictures, spun sugar (a sugar solution with the gooey consistency of thick honey) is best.
Next time, I will take a slightly more professional approach and use glycerin. I am hoping that the dispersed iron filings won’t settle as quickly as they did in the sugar solution. Besides, mixing the sugar solution is a very sticky business ...

Note from the supermagnete team: Also suitable for the 3D viewing of field lines is our product Ferrofluid. The project Ferrofluid in the glass could be helpful for the simple observation of the ferrofluid in more liquid.

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