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Unorthodox “Ferrolic” clock displays the time with magnets and ferrofluid

You know ferrofluid? That awesome black liquid that takes on a variety of crazy shapes when in the presence of a magnetic field? It was originally designed by a NASA engineer as a special type of liquid rocket fuel that could be drawn toward a pump inlet in a weightless environment by applying a magnetic field — but due to the fact that it looks so damn cool, its most common application nowadays is geeky desk toys and weird art projects.

The latest ferrofluid creation comes from Dutch designer Zelf Koelman. His project, dubbed Ferrolic, is a mesmerizing new clock that uses a unique ferrofluid screen to display the time. Normally, watching a clock tick out minutes is about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but I could look at this thing all day.

“Ferrolic was designed from a strong fascination for the magical material Ferro Fluid,” Koelman explains on his website. “… this display bridges the gap between everyday digital screens and tangible reality.  Because the fluid behaves in an unpredictable way, it is possible to give the bodies, perceived in the Ferrolic display, a strong reference to living creatures. It is this lively[ness] that enables Ferrolic to show a meaningful narrative such as having the creatures play tag. In addition to the natural flow of the material, Ferrolic can be used to form recognisable shapes and written characters.”

Contrary to what it looks like, the clock doesn’t actually have any moving parts. The display creates numbers by switching magnetic fields on or off behind the screen. When these electromagnetic zones are selectively switched on to form the clock’s individual digits, the ferrofluid follows and settles into pools wherever the magnetic field is strongest. However, because gravity tends to pull the fluid down toward the bottom of the display over time, the magnetic fields must occasionally start at the bottom of the clock and “dance” their way back into position.

Pretty nifty, right? Well the good news is that if you really, really want one for your nightstand, you can pre-order a Ferrolic clock on Zelf’s website. They don’t come cheap though. The clocks are still a “work in progress” according to Zelf, and since he hasn’t worked out the manufacturing process quite yet, he’s only got plans to build 24 of them in a super limited production run. As such, each clock will cost just over $8,300.

That’s definitely pretty steep, but I’d take this over a Rolex any day of the week.

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Drew Prindle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
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