When Nick and I made ferrofluid a while back we knew we wanted to do something cool with it. This project is what we eventually started work on. The basic idea is to build a table top that is filled with alcohol and some amount of ferrofluid. We have a couple neat ideas for what you can do with a table top like that, and we’ve started building a prototype so we can test them out.
The idea that intrigues me most is that of controlling the ferrofluid using an Arduino or some other microcontroller. Using a grid of electromagnets underneath the tabletop we hope to be able to control a blob of ferrofluid by selectively turning magnet “pixels” on and off. (Magxels? Pixnets? Ten Internet Points to anyone who can coin a better term.)
Here’s out little test bed. It’s a 1′ by 1′ wooden stand that we can put our prototype tabletops onto with some space underneath to fit magnets or what have you. We may need to build another version of this bad boy so that we have a little more room for electronics.
The electronic heart of our operation: an Arduino Uno drives four of these relays we got from our good friends at American Science. We had to put diodes across them to keep inductive kickback from frying our transistors when we switched them off.
Our next step is to build a tabletop mk II. The tabletop mk I was an excellent messy failure. Lots of lessons learned, lots of funny looks. Good times. For mk II we’ll be using the Arduino power board designed by IdeaPDish which we probably would have had to make ourselves if he hadn’t beat us to it (thanks Steve!).