Magnetic field causes a hairy moment for uphill water

A new elastic material coated with microscopic, hairlike structures has been developed by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to tilt in response to a magnetic field.

Depending on the field’s orientation, the nickel microhairs can tilt to form a path through which fluid can flow. MIT claims the material can even direct water upward, against gravity.

The researchers fabricated an array of the microhairs, which are approximately 70 microns high and 25 microns wide, onto an elastic, transparent layer of silicone.

In experiments, the magnetically activated material directed the flow of fluid and light.

The researchers said the work could lead to waterproofing and anti-glare applications in buildings and vehicles. In the near term, the material could also be embedded in lab-on-a-chip devices to magnetically direct the flow of cells and other biological material through a diagnostic chip’s microchannels.