Quick and dirty ferrofluid


When we posted our first ferrofluid story [frogz] threatened to make a video of his own version. Well he did and here’s the video. He uses laser printer toner and suspends it in lightweight SAE10 motor oil. He says that a thinner oil produces shapes quicker. I don’t think the power drill with the spoon attachment is really necessary though.

54 thoughts on “Quick and dirty ferrofluid

  1. Was there any real reason for this 30 second demonstration to be stretched out to 4 minutes and 19 seconds? And how about the sweet lighting and shot angle at the end…I could almost see something among the black pool.

  2. Love the spoon :)
    What is in the toner that allows it to react to a magnetic field? Is there some iron particles in it or something? I bet this stuff would be just as hard to get out of things as etchant.

  3. this was a really nice tutorial, i just made about 1 liter of ferufluid :D
    im going to play with it all night and maybe bring it to work if it feels lonely.
    and the spoon is definetively nessasaasissisry.
    and it was good lenght (capital letters) jake you were wrong (capital letters end).
    really nice work frogz.

  4. Hmm. I was just wondering if you could make speakers from this. Obviously, the fluid itself isn’t going to produce any vibrations, but maybe if you trapped it inside something rigid.

    Also: coat something small in ferrofliud and float it over a really powerful magnet? The fluid seems repelled by the magnet, so it might work.

    Or what about making a lava-lamp type toy that works with electromagnetism rather than heat expansion? Suspend the ferrofluid in water or something else that won’t mix with the oil and use a pair of electromagnets to make it dance around. Since it wouldn’t be constrained by thermal transfer, you could get more complicated effects. Hell, feed it an audio signal for a truly unique visualisation device! I think doing something like this would require a lot of experimentation and tuning, but the output might be worth it. I’d be tempted to do it myself if I didn’t lack a decent workspace.

  5. Wow… I don’t know why, but I really liked the idea of the video being posted directly on the site, instead of linking us off to some other window.

  6. #14:
    not sure it is being repelled, i say it is being attracted and some particles farther away prefer to jump on top of others to get closer and that is what creates the blob over the magnet…

    a lava lamp would be cool though

    wwwDOTformatcDOTcoDOTnr

  7. i mean the idea of ferrofluid seems pretty interesting, but i’m having problems seeing any practical application. lava lamp sounds cool, i wonder what else could use the magnetic powers of ferro fluid…. without practical application it’s pretty much just a poor mans etch-a-sketch for the 2000’s. but the tutorial was great and i am intrigued by the simplicity that is involved in producing it. thanks frogz

  8. ferrofluid is used in variable resistance shock absorbers and other mostly industrial applications (like hydrostatic drives – power transfer – etc)

  9. So the video was slowed down so people got bored watching it… yet the text flashes by so fast you can’t read it? Smrt.

    I wasn’t aware MICR toner was readily available. I used to print cheques with it in a previous job, and the materials for that are (understandably) pretty tightly controlled – although maybe it’s just the paper.

  10. frogz! nice one. the music, though, i wasn’t surprised to see it was named ‘a night on xtacy’ or more like a dance hall version ‘rolling stones – paint it black.’

    so i guess it’s all back to yours after the club for magic guiness.

  11. mbe i dont understand how toner works totally but using this method would it be possible to make ferrofluid in other colors if you could aquire the right color toner?

  12. You need toner that contains powdered iron, such as MICR toner. Anything else won’t work. Visit your local Pitney Bowes dealer, they should be able to get you some.

  13. I’m not too familiar with the properties of toner. Is most toner magnetic or did you need to use the MICR toner mentioned above? I’m just curiouse because I’d like to try this without spending to much money on toner.

  14. man this clip sucks
    i tought i was going to see some major explosions or something else buth no
    just a lame 4 min long clip

  15. Not all toner contains the ferrite. But there is toner for priting checks on laser printers that absolutely does. It is so the banks can read the account data laser printed onto blank check stock.

  16. all the toner i got mostly found in dead printers
    just drive along and somtimes look down alleys, chances are you will find a few dead laser printers, fun to scrap for parts

  17. Normal toner isn’t magnetic, it’s plastic. In the laser printer/copier, it’s attracted to the paper by a static charge.

    So, I guess I’d either want some sort of refutation of that or some explanation from frogz about how he managed to make normal plastic toner follow magnetic flux lines or a clarification about using micr toner or some kind of explanation of how this works.

    ps: i guess i am in the minority that found the music goofy, but in a fun way.

  18. OK, here is how copier/printer toner work.

    Toner is made of two things, carbon black and polystyrene. It is designed to melt into the paper when it goes through the fuser. It is NOT magnetic but will stain if it is heated and will not come out. So if you do get some on you, wash in LOTS of COLD water.

    Developer is what people are using to make the Ferofluid. Developer is used to get the toner onto the paper. In modern copers the developer is a synthetic ferride that is shapped into very tiny balls much like a itty bitty golf ball. Depending on how you find the toner/developer mix the ratio of the two will vary.

    In some laser printers they use a combination of two into what is called monocomponent.

    If you want to make a lot of ferrofluid find a bag of developer on Ebay for a copier. Developer in the silver bag is about 98 percent developer and 2 percent toner. If you use a discarded toner cartridge the ratio might be reversed.

    Toner is hydrophobic so it is possible to “clean” developer if you pour it into a waste continer that has water and collect the developer with a magnet. The water will stay on top of the water and the deveoper can be drawn into the water with the magent.

    I know all this because I worked on copiers and fax machines for 10 years.

    That is all, you can go out and play now.

  19. Gay.
    Frogz, you owe me 4 minutes and 19 seconds of my life back.

    Why is it gay? Not only are you video editing skills exceptionally sub-par, as is your musical taste, but the resulting fluid dosn’t even seem that reactive. Why pay outragious prices for ludicrously small amounts commercially? Because it’s actually useful.

    This, however, is not. It’s not even fun.

  20. packetmonkee, I want the 10 seconds back that it took me to read your troll. Just because this doesn’t make the nice neat spikes that the expensive stuff makes doesn’t mean it’s not useful.

    Kevin, thanks for the insight, maybe somebody can improve on this? I like the idea of colored ferofluid.

    This would make for a great effect under a glass top table with a matrix of electromagnets under it.

  21. I think it would be cool to put a shallow basin of this stuff over a sub or somthing so it would react to the music. Maybe add some uv reactive or glow in the dark dye to get some crazy rave dance hall thing going.

    stupid trolls, always trying to steal my precious (time)

  22. it actually does make cool spikes and stuff but you need a lighter oil(kerosean maybe?) i used what i had here(sae 30) so it isnt as good and for all of the people complaining bout the video length, the ferrofluid itself takes 30 seconds to make or less, the mixing of components basicly

  23. ylim… you need to pay a little more attention to what you’re reading. Wikipedia said, “Some toner is also known to be a carcinogen, but such a large exposure is required that it is generally considered harmless.” So, by and large… No, toner is not carcinogenic

    I’m totally liking the idea of using this in a table with a matrix of electromagnets… I wish I had my own place, so I’d have room to work on something like that.

  24. Jun; I think I value my life better than playing with a hack that can risk my health. The problem with Internet is that everyone become instant experts.

  25. If you could get a string of magnet coils under a shallow basin and connect each new ring out from the center to a different range of music tone, and pour the fluid into the center then the fluid would jump up the walls of the basin in relativity (regarding height) to the intensity of the music component tones. Or you could make a plastic box out of plexiglass and put lines of magnets behind it verticaly with one for each range of sound frequency in the music. That way it would behave like the equalizer readout on a stero.
    (mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)
    (mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag) (mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)__(mag)
    ______________^
    ^______^______^____________________^
    ^______^______^_____________^______^
    ^______^______^_____________^______^ this is the fluid

  26. Canon printer engines use a toner that is made of meltable polyolefin, colored with carbon black and with a bit of magnetic iron oxide inside. The print engine uses a magnetic field to produce a “brush” of toner that wipes an even coat onto the charged drum like a fingerprint kit. The properties of the oxide and the low concentration keep the saturation flux too low for real engineering ferrofluid use.

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