Whether or not you were fortunate enough to see one of those neat levitation demonstrations in science class, that all doesn’t matter anymore.
That’s because researchers researchers at Tel Aviv University have released a video of an incredible method that enables objects to re-position and maneuver themselves in mid-air like its nobody’s business. The object in question, best described as a frosty, crystal sapphire hockey puck coated with yttrium barium copper oxide, can stay locked in place, glide smoothly around a racetrack, stop on a dime and even do some nifty spin moves.
I know what some of you are thinking. Why not get on it already and start integrating this levitation capability into vehicles like cars and trains? The reason is, as the case with so many promising technologies, scaling it up to the point where its practical will require overcoming some major hurdles and drawbacks.
In this case, levitation is achieved using a physics principle called “quantum levitation.” Like other magnetic levitation demos liquid nitrogen is added to bring the object’s temperature down to where it’s in a super conducting state. Typically, superconducting objects create an electromagnetic field that’s expelled from the inside, a phenomenon known as the Meissner effect. But since the disc is ultra thin, the magnetic field does penetrate, though only in tiny quantities known as flux tubes. Inside these tubes superconductivity is neutralized. The effect is an equally strong opposing magnetic field, locking the disk in midair.
Now granted there are levitating maglev trains and the like, but applying this special brand of technology to any kind of transportation vehicle would require superconductors continuously cooled at a temperature other than negative 300. And don’t forget that the object must be kept ultra-thin for flux tubes to enter and help pin the object in place. So for now, we’ll have to make do with fooling around with frozen hockey pucks — which is still pretty darn cool.