Bristol University scientists develop magnetic soap

A scientific breakthrough in the development of 'magnetic' soap could significantly improve environmental clean-up operations and water treatment processes.

As part of the research, the team dissolved iron particles in water that contained chloride and bromide ions, similar to those found in everyday mouthwash or fabric conditioner. They then introduced a magnet, which created an iron metallic centre within the soap particles which could then be influenced by a magnetic field.

It is hoped this breakthrough could be used to develop cleaning products that can be used in the recovery of oil spills at sea, as well as revolutionise industrial cleaning products.

According to Bristol University professor and project leader Julian Eastoe, the soap’s magnetic properties make it easier to round-up and remove from a system once it has been added, which makes it suitable for use in environmental clean-ups and water treatment.

He said: As most magnets are metals, from a purely scientific point of view these ionic liquid surfactants are highly unusual, making them a particularly interesting discovery.

“From a commercial point of view, though these exact liquids aren’t yet ready to appear in any household product, by proving that magnetic soaps can be developed, future work can reproduce the same phenomenon in more commercially viable liquids for a range of applications from water treatment to industrial cleaning products.”

The findings were proven by the leading neutron centre the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in France, which confirmed the soap’s magnetic properties.

Carys Matthews

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