What blobs of heated wax bubbling in a glass cylinder was to the ’70s, ferromagnetic fluid is to 2015. Kyle Haines, founder of Inspired Designs, says this is natural: ferrofluid and lava lamps are a natural fit. “It’s actually a very common response when people see ferrofluid for the first time to compare the two.” His ferrofluid lava lamp, the Installation, might be one of the coolest we’ve seen yet (although we’ve seen its kind before) but the Inspiration’s sister products might be even cooler: a couple of tiny, Edisonian ferrofluid toys that let you play with ferrofluid in different ways. We could easily see them being next year’s most popular desk toy.
About the size of a lightbulb, the Thinker is a ferrofluid sculpture that makes a toy out of the popular ferromagnetic bolt experiment. It contains a permanently magnetized bolt and a tiny amount of ferrofluid floating in about 120 milliliters of water. The ferrofluid normally wants to hug the bolt, but by using magnets, you can cause the Thinker’s ink to create all sorts of amazing patterns and shapes.
It costs just $50 from Haines’s online store, although it can be upgraded with blue or gold ferrofluid for a bit more. If that’s more than you want to spend, though, the Nano is an even smaller version of the Thinker tiny enough to carry around in your pocket, available for $20.
Although he’s only 27, Haines says that he’s always been fascinated with ferrofluid; he started his experiments as a kid after converting his grandfather’s bungalow into a ferrofluid lab. Those experiments continue to this day. Haines says that designing with ferrofluid presents unique challenges, since the liquid is notoriously sticky, and stains everything it touches. When he started, he says he “completely underestimated” the difficulty of working with ferrofluid, but he kept at it, resulting in a “Pandora’s box of ideas that I’m just begging to explore in more depth.”
In the meantime, if you love ferrofluid, you can check out Haines’s other creations through his online store, where you can also pick up Haines’s own spin on the ferrofluid lava lamp.