Activity

Magnetic Field Patterns in oil

Summary
Make patterns with iron filings in oil. Back with colour to make an art piece to photograph. This activity is messy.
Science content
Physics: Motion and Forces, Newton’s Laws, Gravity (K, 2, 6)
Materials
  • glass plates e.g. from picture frames
  • vegetable oil, or other clear oil
  • iron filings
  • pipette
  • magnets, weaker ceramic ones work best
  • coloured paper
  • camera to record artwork
Procedure

This activity is messy, and best done in a tray. Probably not suitable for a whole class, but for breakout groups with an attending adult.

Add a puddle of oil to one glass plate, spread out a little, then sprinkle iron filings on it.
Slowly lower the second glass plate, to avoid air bubbles. Add more oil from the edges with a pipette if necessary.
Move the top glass plate in a circular motion over the lower glass plate, to spread out the iron filings.
Use a magnet over the top glass plate to draw patterns in the iron filings.
Once a design is completed, slide a coloured piece of paper below the lower glass plate, being careful not to get oil on it, then photograph.

Notes

A simpler way to capture iron filings art - make iron filings pattern on a paper plate, spray with vinegar (will make rust). Allow to dry then brush of filings to leave the field pattern in rust. https://scientistinresidence.ca/pdf/physical-science/Concepts%20in%20El…

Grades taught
Gr 4
Gr 5
Teaching site
ingridscience afterschool