3D Magnetic Field Viewer

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Introduction: 3D Magnetic Field Viewer

About: I like to tinker and experiment with electronics, robotics, programming, and photography. Along with my latest interest in Steampunk.

My job takes me to various research labs to install powerful magnetic systems and to train techs how to use them. This time I needed a magnetic field viewer to show lines of force. This instructable will show how to construct such a device using steel wool fibers and mineral oil. I built this while I was staying at my hotel.

Step 1: Get Your Supplies

I went to Walmart and got the following items and brought them back to my Hotel.

1. Fine steel wool.
2. Bottle of Mineral Oil in plastic bottle.
3.Scissors.

Step 2: Cut the Steel Wool

Use the scissors to cut the steel wool into small short pieces. About a tablespoon of cut steel wool should be enough. Spread out sheets of newspaper on your work surface and try not to get clippings all over the place.

Step 3: Place in Bottle of Oil.

Place the cut steel wool in the bottle of mineral oil. Clean the top of the bottle with a paper towel so you will get a good seal. Squeeze the sides of the bottle as you put on the cap to burp out the air. Shake to disperse the fibers.

Important note: Clean up any mess, and dispose excess fibers in your trash immediately. Place it in a plastic bag so it doesn't spread all over. The longer your mess sits around, the more likely you will spread it.

Step 4: Test the Viewer

Place a magnet against the bottle. The viewer will show the lines of force.

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    118 Comments

    Real cool idea. just wondering if you lit the wool and made...rust, would it still be magnetic?

    2 replies

    Rust would not be magnetic as it is no longer a "metal"; just a collection of oxides.

    Ferrite is an iron oxide and is magnetic, so it is not so simple; the atom does not loose its four unpaired electrons in the d shell when forming an oxide.

    Very helpful, I needed a tester like this for my independent project at school.

    Just found this and it's a terrific project! Wish I had had this when I was teaching. Any problem with the particles becoming permanently magnetized?

    1 reply

    In fact, his statement shows that the Internet (in the form of a wide area network of networks) has been around for 43 years (2012-1969 = 43).

    And I would ask you exactly the same question? Are you planning to participate in this now three year old discussion, for which the last contribution was made twenty months before yours?

    Great project, I am a physics teacher and this will make a great project for my students. Ideally I would like to make this in a container that has a hole in the center in which The students could slip a magnet and see the field on all sides around the magnet, instead of just one side. I will have to do some wandering about Walmart and see if I can see a bottle like this.

    Thanks for the great project!

    4 replies

    Beware the potential mess. Seals against flexible sheets are tricky. Try a Klein bottle or distillation condensers, maybe? A decent scientific glass shop could easily fabricate a tube through a flask'. Great 'ible. Great idea to extend the concept.

    You could cut out holes for pvc pipe and then seal around the edges with silicone. That should easily accomodate a bar magnet.

    Thats an interesting idea. I've seen some rubber stoppers at our local brew store that have a 3/8 hole in them. You could slip a small test tube through the hole. Another idea would be to find a test tube just the right size to fit a plastic bottle. Add a couple of o rings to help seal it in place. There are also baby bottles that are open in the middle to act as a "handle". I think its called a gripper baby bottles.

    You should be able to buy glass bottles with holes in them at places like Michael's, Hobby Lobby, etc. =]

    This is the best instructable EVER! Thank you for showing it to us all.

    Outstanding job! This would have been great for my high school and college physics classes, since neither school had much budget. I'll make one for my son when he takes college physics next year and send the link to his former science teachers.

    I am sorry there are some "You did not invent magnetism" TROLLS harassing you over this posting. Please be assured that most people appreciate the information.

    Glass is fine, but breakable. It will make an awful mess if it breaks.

    We did this in science class but we used iron powder instead and it didn't work too well. I think the shredded steel wool is much better.

    1 reply

    You need long fibers so they can twist and align in the field like little compasses. Iron powder may rotate, but you won't notice it.

    Nice job! Love it!

    I applaud your ingenuity, and kludging ability! Wonderful instructable!