How to Levitate 100lbs

Most of our readers are already going to be familiar with how electromagnets work — a current is induced (usually with a coil) in a ferrous core, and that current aligns the magnetic domains present in the core. Normally those domains are aligned randomly in such a way that no cumulative force is generated. But, when the electric field created by the coil aligns them a net force is created, and the core becomes a magnet.

As you’d expect, this is an extremely useful concept, and electromagnets are used in everything from electric motors, to particle accelerators, to Beats by Dre headphones. Another use that you’re probably familiar with from your high school physics class is levitation. When two magnets are oriented with the same pole towards each other, they repel instead of attract. The same principle applies to electromagnets, so that an object can be levitated using good ol’ electricity.

That, however, isn’t the only way to levitate something using magnets. As shown in the video below, permanent magnets can be used to induce a current in conductive material, which in turn exerts a magnetic field. The permanent magnets induce that current simply by moving — in this case on rotors spun by electric motors. If the conductive material is placed below the magnets (like in the video), it will push back and you’ve got levitation.

While the setup shown in the video is just a prototype designed to demonstrate this principle, the potential is there for a similar system to be used in Maglev trains. This prototype is capable of lifting itself (more than 100lbs), and seems to be able to hold much more. There are plenty of other methods of levitation out there, some more practical than others, but this one definitely stands out — and the video does a great job of explaining exactly how it works.

22 thoughts on “How to Levitate 100lbs

  1. Exciting research. Sound like noone ever has tried that! F*cking magnets , so much unknown stuff about them. All this exiting new science. Vacuum tubes with magnets moving people and goods. And hot tea water from copper plates. I wonder if you could use them to generate more energy output than you put into it.

    1. If memory serves, this is the same principle as the Hendo “hoverboard” and [Jellmeister] on Hackaday had a good start going: (https://hackaday.io/project/3222-hoverbot). I was interested, so I built a couple rotors that I would spin really fast with a Dremel (one of them exploded, shooting magnets all over my basement).

      So it’s pretty cool, if not entirely practical to have sheet metal as the floor everywhere you want to go.

      1. Totally. This whole pedo/grapist humor is very alarming. So, I always assume its always just a twisted joke when I see it. Glass half full i guess. Since there is really no possible chance that we really are the feeder/slave class to the “top 10%.”

        But, on a serious note, If anyone from the resistance happens to see this, have your people get in touch with my people. Would truly enjoy a chance to get involved with saving the planet, if its not too late already.

  2. I wonder if there would be a practical way to make a wheel hub that repelled a wheel rim such that you’d have a very low friction bearing between wheel/rim (which would roll on the ground) and hub (which would be fixed to the chassis). This would let you make a hover cart that didn’t require the floor to be that conductive surface but rather would carry its own conductive surface with it in the form of wheel rims.

    This would combine low friction bearings and some shock absorption in one.

  3. An interesting phenomena to be sure but rather than solving problems this creates them.

    This whole setup as demonstrated later in the video is basically an induction heater. They even show an example on another demo rig where they spray water and it boils instantly. 100lbs made the plate almost too hot to touch after a few minutes, how much hotter is a 120 car freight train going to make it?
    Even if it were practical to build 100’s of miles of copper rail (copper is ~6x the price of steel Al, ~3x. Will these rails move 3x the cargo?) this added heat is going to make engineering harder than current solutions and thus more expensive.

    1. on top of that you have the added complexity of multiple spinning assemblies as opposed to the no moving parts in traditional maglev trains, the track would be massively cheaper as far as i understand it though, perhaps this is best suited for very niche applications.

      i guess one could make entirely sealed robots running on this system, if one had a power source powerful enough, only issue is it would have to be somewhere where wheels and traditional robots were at a disadvantage and i really cant think of any right at this moment.

      1. Just saying, this is likely how cars in the wipeout racing game series work. The race tracks are exclusively built for them and are maybe 5km long each so don’t use a huge amount of metal. They use some kind of reactor on board for power and propulsion so the immense power requirement isn’t an issue. They can go up walls, on ceilings etc. so it’s not pure levitation.

    2. Ah the voice of reason, yes it is horribly inefficient and simply replaces friction losses with resistance losses. You need superconductors to make magnetic levitation mass transport sustainable.

  4. I was wondering if adding extra weight increased the load on the motors – the slight phase shift between the magnetic field and the induced magnetic field seems to indicate that it would .

  5. This is more or a question of why this would not work, more than anything else.
    Instead of using large motors to spin the magnets. Could a static (non moving) disk with a series of electromagnets be used that alter the magnetic pols in a similar way that the spinning motion does for the rare earth magnets?
    i.e. In the current set up, each magnet is replaced with an electromagnet coil (many?) that switches its pols to mimic the circular motion and produce a similar magnetic field at any given time.
    Thanks!

  6. Okay, but we already have a way to transport people thousands of miles in a few hours — it is called an airplane. And it uses tech that actually works, not very expensive magnets and no thousand mile long copper roadways.

  7. Maybe in about 10-years someone at HaD will be able to figure out how to levitate someone or something before Boeing does. Or it may already be too late. Like take this white paper PDF from Los Alamos National Lab (U.S. DoE) and try and figure out how it works and then try to apply the principles to a hover-board or something. Good Luck! Tell me when your brain starts to hurt… ;P

    http://xxx.lanl.gov/PS_cache/cond-mat/pdf/9701/9701074v3.pdf

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