Even Nail Polish can be a Science Lesson

by Annie Shao, age 19

Even nerdy science majors like me enjoy a nice nail color. But when it’s a nail polish infused with science, we love it. My friends bought me a bottle of magnetic nail polish for my birthday so, I decided to do a manicure and a mad scientist experiment at the same time.
Magnetic nail polish is a special beauty product that goes on as a solid color like a normal nail polish, but forms patterns when a magnet is held over the wet polish. The bottle comes with a magnet that creates a wave pattern, but I made some of my own designs by cutting and arranging pieces of kitchen magnets. The result is a beautiful, three-dimensional design that is impossible to achieve with regular nail polish.
The “secret” ingredient of magnetic nail polish is, not surprisingly, magnets. Magnets are more common than you might guess. Many different types of atoms are miniature magnets themselves, with a north and south pole just like your average U-shaped magnet.
In most common materials, the magnetic atoms are all pointing in random directions, and the positive and negative poles cancel out so that the material as a whole is not magnetic. In a magnet, all atoms are pointing in the same direction. When a metal “sticks” to a magnet, it’s actually turning into one itself. The magnet attracts the atoms in the metal, which lines them up in the same direction. Iron, which is incorporated into the nail polish as a powder, is a very easy metal to magnetize.
The iron is uniformly distributed and hasn’t yet been influenced by any magnets when the nail polish is first applied. This is why it goes on as just one color. Once the magnet is held above the wet nail polish, the iron pieces get attracted and repelled by the magnet’s poles, and a pattern appears.
This magician-worthy magnetic nail polish was the most fascinating of my birthday presents. It’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but the scientific background was even more stunning than the nail polish’s appearance.

[Source: www.physicscentral.com]

This is a really cool article. My science teacher told us about it. He is right, science is all around us -- everyday!! – Robin , Madison (2014-01-24 10:46)