FOR KIDS: Liquid undergoes magnetic ‘splits’

Tuesday, July 30th 2013. | Science News

The demonstration helps scientists begin how molecules in plants and animals naturally alter their shapes

The demonstration helps scientists begin how molecules in plants and animals naturally alter their shapes

By Andrew Grant

Web edition: July 29, 2013

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Magnetic warping

A liquid mixed with nanomagnets can split and arrange itself into simple droplets (left) and complex, warping formations (right).

Credit: Courtesy of Mika Latikka and Jaakko Timonen/Aalto Univ.

On their own, proteins and other molecules in nature can warp and fold into new shapes. Scientists want to create synthetic structures that can alter their form much as the molecules in plants and animals do. A team in Europe has now tested a simple shape-shifting material.

Physicist Jaakko Timonen at Aalto University in Finland and his colleagues worked with liquids into which they suspended nanomagnets. Each only a few billionths of a meter in diameter, these particles can force the liquid to behave in strange ways when exposed to magnetic fields.

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