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Alright, the big problem with hydraulic systems is that you need a pump to move the fluid from the reservoir into the piston, etc.
Now, Ferro-Fluids are solutions of ferro-magnetic particles suspended in a solvent in which they are insoluble (it makes sense somehow). It's a liquid, but its shape
can be affected by magnetic fields.
Now, my idea would involve using Ferro-fluid in the cylinder and putting magnets on either end of it. Turning on one magnet would make the fluid flow in that direction, while turning the other would make it flow the other way. You may even be able to keep it in the middle by changing the current running through the magnets (haven't checked, but this part is barely even batter right now)
What I envision is a hydraulic locomotion like that used by insects and arthropods in general to move their legs and such.
[jutta, Sep 21 2006]
||I think you have made a mistake in your interpretation of how ferrofluids work. They are not magnetic and thus they are not really attracted to a magnet, rather they will align themselves with the magnetic field. If kept separate from the magnet the fluid will not move to follow the magnet but will align with the field as it passes by(thus changing Shape)
||I may of course be wrong here not being an expert in ferrofluids but this is my understanding after reading up on them.
||They're attracted to magnetic fields. That's not quite the same as being attracted to a magnetic pole, but I don't see why it couldn't be used for locomotion.