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This Ferrofluid Alarm Clock Gets Back To Basics

Rhei might end up being the first ferromagnetic sculpture you can actually afford.

A couple months ago, we posted about Ferrolic, a ferromagnetic alarm clock that was just stunning. Unfortunately, it was also incredibly expensive: $8,300 if you wanted to buy one, which you probably couldn’t, because only 24 have been made so far.

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Rhei is a similar kinectic sculpture in the form of a table clock full of transmorphing ferrofluid. The bad news is, for now, you still won’t be able to get one. But the good news is that the Rhei should be comparatively cheaper than the Ferrolic to make, which should make mass-production possible.

Designed by Damjan Stankovic in collaboration with Marko Pavlovic, the Rhei is similar to the Ferrolic in concept. Basically, the clock manipulates ferrofluid–a magnetic liquid first discovered by NASA scientists in the 1960s–with magnets to display patterns on a clock. In Ferrolic’s case, this was very advanced: although it appeared to be an alarm clock, it was really closer to a fully functional display, capable of rendering almost anything in ferrofluid.

This made the Ferrolic an incredibly powerful, dynamic design. But it also made it expensive to build. Engineering-wise, it was frankly kind of overkill for something that was mostly an alarm clock. What makes the Rhei so great is it brings the ferromagnetic clock concept back to basics. Instead of trying to make the entire face a ferrofluid display, Stankovic tells me he just focused on the digits of the clock face itself. They work almost like analog LEDs, moving self-contained blobs of ferrofluid into various numbers by turning electromagnetic “pixels” on and off.

The result is a clock that in many ways looks just as cool as the Ferrolic, but should be manufacturable at a vastly lower price. How much lower, though, is still unknown: while Stankovic tells me he’s interested in mass-producing the Rhei, he’s still looking into the practicalities of doing so. But if you’re dreaming of a ferromagnetic alarm clock of your very own, the Rhei could very well be the first one to market, and the first one you could actually afford.