Electronic devices

Ferrofluids are used to form liquid seals around the spinning drive shafts in hard disks. The rotating shaft is surrounded by magnets. A small amount of ferrofluid, placed in the gap between the magnet and the shaft, will be held in place by its attraction to the magnet. The fluid of magnetic particles forms a barrier which prevents debris from entering the interior of the hard drive. According to engineers at Ferrotec, ferrofluid seals on rotating shafts typically withstand 3 to 4 psi; additional seals can be stacked to form assemblies capable of higher pressures.

Mechanical engineering

Ferrofluids have friction-reducing capabilities. If applied to the surface of a strong enough magnet, such as one made of NdFeB, it can cause the magnet to glide across smooth surfaces with minimal resistance.


NASA has experimented using ferrofluids in a closed loop as the basis for a spacecraft's attitude control system. A magnetic field is applied to a loop of ferrofluid to change the angular momentum and influence the rotation of the spacecraft.

Analytical Instrumentation

Ferrofluids have numerous optical applications because of their refractive properties; that is, each grain, a micromagnet, reflects light. These applications include measuring specific viscosity of a liquid placed between a polarizer and an analyzer, illuminated by a helium-neon laser.


In medicine, ferrofluids are used as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging and can be used for cancer detection. The ferrofluids are in this case composed of iron oxide nanoparticles and called SPION, for "Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles"

There is also much experimentation with the use of ferrofluids in an experimental cancer treatment called magnetic hyperthermia. It is based on the fact that a ferrofluid placed in an alternating magnetic field releases heat.

Heat transfer

An external magnetic field imposed on a ferrofluid with varying susceptibility (e.g., because of a temperature gradient) results in a nonuniform magnetic body force, which leads to a form of heat transfer called thermomagnetic convection. This form of heat transfer can be useful when conventional convection heat transfer is inadequate; e.g., in miniature microscale devices or under reduced gravity conditions.

Ferrofluids are commonly used in loudspeakers to remove heat from the voice coil, and to passively damp the movement of the cone. They reside in what would normally be the air gap around the voice coil, held in place by the speaker's magnet. Since ferrofluids are paramagnetic, they obey Curie's law, thus become less magnetic at higher temperatures. A strong magnet placed near the voice coil (which produces heat) will attract cold ferrofluid more than hot ferrofluid thus forcing the heated ferrofluid away from the electric voice coil and toward a heat sink. This is an efficient cooling method which requires no additional energy input.


Research is under way to create an adaptive optics shape-shifting magnetic mirror from ferrofluid for Earth-based astronomical telescopes.


Some art and science museums have special devices on display that use magnets to make ferrofluids move around specially shaped surfaces in a fountain show-like fashion to entertain guests. Sachiko Kodama is known for her ferrofluid art.

The Australian electronic rock band, Pendulum, used ferrofluid for the music video for the track, Watercolour. The design house Krafted London was responsible for the ferrofluid FX in the video. The post-metal band Isis also uses a Ferrofluid in the music-video for 20 Minutes/40 Years.

CZFerro, an American art studio, began using ferrofluid in its productions in 2008. The works consist of ferrofluid displayed in a unique suspension solution. These works are often used as conversation pieces for offices and homes.

Tunable Filters, Defect Sensors and Intelligent Cooling

Recently, it has been demonstrated that ferrofluids of suitable composition can exhibit extremely large enhancement in thermal conductivity(k) (i.e. ~ 300% of the base fluid thermal conductivity). Studies confirmed that the large enhancement in k is due to the efficient transport of heat through percolating nanoparticle paths. Special magnetic nanofluids with tunable thermal conductivity to viscosity ratio can be used as multifunctional 'smart materials' that can remove heat and also arrest vibrations (damper). Such fluids offer exciting applications in microfluidic devices, micro and nano electromechanical systems (MEMS and NEMS) and other nanotechnology based miniature devices.

Optical filters are used to select different wavelengths of light. The replacement of filters is cumbersome, especially when the wavelength is changed continuously with tunable type of lasers. Optical filters, tunable for differing wavelengths by varying the magnetic field can be built using ferrofluid emulsion.




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