Researchers and manufacturers alike both have a lot of hope for self-assembly, a new school of technological development that could one day lead to items that build themselves — or at least build their own parts. The idea is that by creating smart structures of nanoparticles, scientists could one day create substances that take on predetermined shapes when they’re exposed to an outside energy source like a magnetic field or electric current. Today, researchers at Paris Tech and Aalto University report in the journal Science that they’ve developed a technique that lets them create shapes from magnetic fluids in two flavors — static, where the fluid is at rest, and dynamic, where energy is fed through the substance. Even better? The fluids look like something out of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice when researchers are experimenting on them, as you can see in the video above.
In the video, you can see the effect a magnetic field has on the fluid, which is composed of magnetic nanoparticles suspended in water and sits on a water repellent surface. Researchers hope that self assembly techniques could one day lead to whole classes of objects that come together without having to be built by human or robot hands, instead simply forming into the correct shape at the slightest touch of outside energy.
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