Scientists from the University of Bristol have developed a soap, composed of iron rich salts dissolved in water, that responds to a magnetic field when placed in solution. The soap’s magnetic properties were proved with neutrons at the Institut Laue-Langevin to result from tiny iron-rich clumps that sit within the watery solution. The generation of this property in a fully functional soap could calm concerns over the use of soaps in oil-spill clean ups and revolutionise industrial cleaning products.
Scientists have long been searching for a way to control soaps (or surfactants as they are known in industry) once they are in solution to increase their ability to dissolve oils in water and then remove them from a system. The team at the University of Bristol have previously worked on soaps sensitive to light, carbon dioxide or changes in pH, temperature or pressure. Their latest breakthrough, reported in Angewandte Chemie, is the world’s first soap sensitive to a magnetic field.