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Ever wondered what would it be like if the inanimate objects around you came to life? What if the numbers on the clock in front of you suddenly started moving around or changed shapes to grow arms and legs or form little squiggles? Before you laugh away the idea, take a look at the Ferrolic Display. Creator Zelf Koelman has trapped and harnessed the magical shape-sifting properties of the Ferro Fluid inside the display unit of a clock to give life to Time. You can spend hours watching the hours and the minutes on the Ferrolic Display clock take form and then morph into wondrous shapes.

Ferro Fluid: A Material Wonder

The Ferro Fluid was created by the NASA back in 1965 as a liquid rocket fuel that could be used in space, an environment with no gravity. To enable it to be pumped into machines in a weightless environment, NASA created it such that the shape and position of a blob of the liquid can be controlled using magnets. In their rockets, a magnetic field drew floating drops of the Ferro Fluid towards pump inlets.

Decades later, today, Zelf Koelman has used the Ferro Fluid and a set of powerful electromagnets to build clocks where you can see the hours and the minutes forming in front of your eyes. Zelf has designed the clock such that you can even control the Ferro Fluid and make it tell other stories, complete with a cast of dynamic characters.


Ferrolic Display: A Clock Like No Other

The display unit of the clock is like an aquarium that houses the black Ferro Fluid and provides the stage where the liquid can move around and create a myriad of forms. Built into the unit are powerful electromagnets that move the liquid around. The display unit and the electronics are housed within an aluminum frame.

The electromagnets can be controlled by software. So you can manipulate the way the Ferro Fluid moves and changes shapes. You can even create custom shapes and string them together to create animations. This internal system of electronics can be accessed via a Web browser.

The Ferrolic Display has no light and is absolutely silent because there are no mechanical components moving inside its frame.

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A Clock That Embodies Fine Balance Between Nature and Technology

Zelf Koelman is currently pursuing a Masters program in Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology in Netherlands. There is an artist in him who seeks to infuse ethics in everything he designs, even if it is a functional object. There is also an idealist in him who believes that technology need not override natural designs; both can co-exist harmoniously while retaining their unique characteristics and powers. Zelf is also fascinated by the natural interplay between different objects and between objects and nature and wants to recreate these dramas in his works.

What you see inside the Ferrolic Display is the movement of a black liquid. It is actually the continuous efforts of the liquid to strike a fine balance between the forces of gravity, the electromagnets, and its own weight to settle into a stable shape. The design of the Ferrolic Display embodies its creator’s unique vision and motto—to create harmonious designs by merging technology and natural materials without destroying the uniqueness of either.

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