The fluid proposed by Ji-Ping Huang of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and colleagues, contains magnetite balls 10 nanometres in diameter, coated with a 5-nanometre-thick layer of silver, possibly with polymer chains attached to keep them from clumping.
In the absence of a magnetic field, such nanoparticles would simply float around in the water, but if a field were introduced, the particles would self-assemble into chains whose lengths depend on the strength of the field, and which can also attract one another to form thicker columns.
The chains and columns would lie along the direction of the magnetic field. If they were oriented vertically in a pool of water, light striking the surface would refract negatively – bent in way that no natural material can manage.
This property could be exploited for invisibility devices, directing light around an object so that it appears as if nothing is there, or be put to use in lenses that could capture finer details than any optical microscope.
Well, I suppose. As always in these situations, I offer this caveat from Ph.D Comics.
Link via Popular Science | Image: TSR/Marvel | Previously on Neatorama: First Steps Toward an Invisibility Cloak