Ferrofluid Sculpture

For my final project I am making a dynamic Ferrofluid sculpture. I have been fascinated by ferrofluid ever since I came across it years ago in a lab and have always wanted to work with the stuff. There is an exhibit in the ITLL that continues to tease my interest every time I walk by. The deep purple/black color is captivating to me especially when it is being magnetized and taking on different forms.

For a while I bounced around what kind of sculpture I wanted to make, but I recently found a metal shop in Arizona that makes large steel NFL team signs. Since my family are huge Pittsburgh Steelers fans, I am taking this opportunity to make a one of a kind wall mounted sign for them! Below is a picture of the sign I purchase and will be the base of my ferrofluid display.


Dimensions: 11.5″ diameter, .125″ thick

steelers sign

Essentially the Steelers sign will be encased in a polycarbonate frame (still in the works of designing) that will then be filled with water and ferrofluid. Behind the frame will be a series of magnets that are connected to an X like structure rotating the magnets and magnetizing the steel frame. The ferrofluid will then be randomly dancing in a circular fashion all over the Pittsburgh Steelers sign. This is sort of hard to visualize, but picture the images of the ferrofluid below dancing on the structure of the design.


image taken from thinkgeek.com

I am thrilled to start building this display and to conquer all the challenges that are going to come with working with ferrofluid. Although I have not gotten too far with the physical design of the case and the dynamic magnets behind it, the ideas are there and I know it is feasible.  I have already ordered a large batch of magnets, ferrofluid, and the frame itself, so I can start playing with it all very soon.


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8 Comments. Leave new

  • This is a really cool project! One thing that I am worried about is how to keep the Steeler’s sign from moving while still moving the magnets. I would guess that there will be a lot of friction between the sign and the magnets. Also, are you worried that the sign will become magnetic after a while or will the rotation keep that from happening. I thought of this because my screw driver bits, while not magnetic, become magnetized after a lot of use.

  • Jason Mcgrath
    March 7, 2016 11:58 am

    I’m really looking forward to seeing this final product. The sculpture in the ITLL lobby is insane. The only thing that could make this project better would be to use a Denver Bronco logo!

  • Nice idea with the ferrofluid. I’ve worked with ferrofluids before and they will stain everything, so I recommend a pair of latex gloves when you’re working on this. You can probably get away with any staining if you use metal parts, but there will be some brownish residue until you wipe it away. As for the type of magnets to use, I recommend finding REALLY strong ones. A semi-strong 1/16″ neodymium magnet will get you some nice spiky features, but if you’re using a larger diameter magnet with the same strength, it will just look like a random blob of ferrofluid. Pretty much the stronger the magnet, the taller the spikes. Since you’ll be submerging it into water, this might not be a big deal. I’m interested to see what you come up with because it’s kind of hard to visualize what you want to do right now.

  • Katie Hortik
    March 6, 2016 5:18 pm

    This is an awesome idea and I think ferrofluid is something that captures the eye because of its uniqueness. I think the being able to magnetize the entire sign will be create an awesome aesthetic. If that is not possible, it might be cool to make patterns on the sign rather than random movement. The additions of lights could add to the piece in the dark.

  • Thomas Brunsgaard
    March 5, 2016 11:02 am

    Ferrofluid is such a unique and interesting material, so I think it will make a really cool display when you finish. I was wondering if the ferrofluid would deteriorate the polycarb? You may have to make the case out of glass (which would be more difficult). Sealing the case so that it doesn’t leak water may also be a challenge. I am excited to see how it turns out!

  • Joseph Graff
    March 5, 2016 10:01 am

    As challenging as it may be, I think it would be so awesome if you were able to use electromagnets with your project. It would add a whole other level of complexity to your project and its design, but I think it would be massively effective, both aesthetically- and functionally-speaking. Either way, I’m excited to see what you come up with, and ferrofluids are already such an interesting and compelling material, I think your project will really be something special. Can’t wait to watch the process and to see what you come up with!

  • Elyse Skinner
    March 4, 2016 12:29 pm

    This project is going to look so awesome. I love how you are expanding on your interests and working towards designing it yourself. I can’t wait to see how it looks at the end.

  • Sreyas Krishnan
    March 4, 2016 12:10 pm

    This is going to look so cool. Glad someone is doing ferrofluid!


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