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Jupiter On Your Desktop

Fluid Dynamics

Any DIY project that combines science and craft—math and stained glass, fluid dynamics and woodworking—are intriguing for the RainyDayProject folks. A while back, we read about a coffee table with a top filled with a rheoscopic (current showing) fluid and thought, “Now that is cool!”


Who WOULDN’T want a table where one can spin something and watch the currents and eddies swirling around? It’s kind of like having a view of the storms of Jupiter in your living room!

Not wanting to tackle something that ambitious right off the bat, we decided to see about making our own rheoscopic fluid and then trying the effect in different containers (bottle, jar, globe, etc). After a bit of Googling and experimentation, we ended up with something simple to make and gave the effect we were looking for.

If you want to give it a try, below are the list of ingredients and the steps:

1. The items needed to make the fluid are pretty easy to find. All we needed was some mica powder and a liquid to suspend the particles in.

Thicker liquid will keep the particles from settling out too quickly, but water is a pretty good medium…plus it is cheap and easy to get.


2. Mica powder…EBAY: $2/gram. Very fine, sparkly, but easy to get everywhere. If spilled, just use a vacuum to clean it up.


3. We used one quarter teaspoon to a liter of water. Adding more doesn’t really add much to the effect. Still, experiment until you get the concentration that appeals to you, and if you overdo it, you can always filter out the mica with a cone paper coffee filter.


4. The visual effect is pretty amazing, but we had some trouble with how best to capture the effect photographically. We might need to find some flat glass containers / petri dishes???


5. Any container will work and the small plastic jar we had worked pretty well… you can almost see the “Jupiter eye” effect there in the middle! The important thing is that it has a leak proof lid. We are sure we don’t have to explain why but…because you will not be able to resist the temptation to shake it!


6. The glass globe is definitely cool! We made one using a clear Christmas tree ornament and sealed it with some Sugru. There is just so much movement going on when you swirl the liquid in one direction and then suddenly change…now clearly revealed! No wonder they need a supercomputer to model this stuff!!!

Note: push the hanger back in before the Sugru sets if you want to be able to hang it!



After playing with the rheoscopic fluid for a few days and trying to get a decent photo of the swirling mica, we realized that a video seems to be the best way to show the effect. Below is a clip of the clear glass ornament filled with the mica/water mixture.

We are happy with our desktop toys for now, but may try to make the flat lazy-susan swirling disc-in-the-table unit this Winter.

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