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Molecular Machines

Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Space-age music visualization

by Craig Bettenhausen
May 4, 2021

Credit: DAKD Jung

Lava lamp, meet your successor. Artist DAKD Jung has long been fascinated with ferrofluids, suspensions of iron particles in oil. “They use the artificial power of magnetism, but you can discover beauty through the effects of chance,” he says. “That part made me fall in love.” Originally developed by NASA for use in spacecraft, ferrofluids react to magnetic fields. For his latest project, Jung made a ferrofluid display for an audio speaker. Circuitry activates an electromagnet, responding to specific ranges of notes in the music and making the ferrofluid jump and form spikes along the magnetic field lines.

It’s not as simple as the device’s clean lines make it look. To stop his ferrofluid from staining the glass, Jung had to get it perfectly clean, dial in the right surface roughness, and add a superhydrophobic coating. Suppressing chemical reactions between the ferrofluid and the surrounding water is tricky, too. “The development of ferrofluids that do not react with water is required, but it is difficult to access for the general public. If there is a researcher who can solve this among C&EN subscribers, I would like to collaborate with them.”

Jung says he hopes to turn his speaker into a commercial product later this year. You can follow his progress on his Instagram page, And if you have the solution for his ferrofluid chemistry puzzle, you can reach him at

Credit: DAKD Jung

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