Friday, October 21, 2011

Quantum Locking and Hoverboards

Anyone who grew up in the 80's and 90's will be familiar with Marty McFly's 'hoverboard' from Back to the Future II. That's what I was reminded of when I saw this video from an American science fair.

It's an interview and demonstration from researchers at Tel-Aviv University of a phenomenon known as Quantum Levitation or Quantum Locking.


A thin superconducting layer of yttrium barium copper oxide (about 1┬Ám thick) is coated on a sapphire wafer. The magnets on the track then create a magnetic field which penetrates the superconductor when it is cooled below -185 degrees Celsius and causes the disc to float in midair due to what is known as the Meissner effect.
More on the physics of how this works here.

The science is not new, but it's a great demonstration of the powers of superconductors and the potential they may hold for new technologies...perhaps including hoverboards.

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