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Tel Aviv University's astounding "quantum levitation" demonstration


October 23, 2011

Recent demonstration of quantum levitation during the 2011 Association of Science- Technol...

Recent demonstration of quantum levitation during the 2011 Association of Science- Technology Centers' annual conference (Image: Tel Aviv University)

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Maglev trains have been in development since before Luke Skywalker drove his first Land Speeder but, like personal rocket packs, the idea of levitating transport is taking a while to catch on. While this "quantum levitation" demonstration shown by the superconductivity group at Tel Aviv University at the 2011 Association of Science - Technology Centers' (ASTC) annual conference in Baltimore doesn't mean we'll all be floating to work anytime soon, it does remind us of the amazing potential of this kind of technology.

Lead by Prof. Guy Deutscher, the Tel Aviv University team has been experimenting with superconductors to produce "quantum trapping" and "quantum levitation" shown in the ATSC video below.

The experiment uses a crystal sapphire wafer 500 microns wide coated in a yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO) ceramic. This "puck" is then cooled below -185ºC (-301ºF) using liquid nitrogen at which point it becomes a superconductor, meaning it's able to conduct electricity without energy loss or resistance.

A defining characteristic of a superconductor (known as the Meissner effect) is that when subjected to a magnetic field it will try to expel a magnetic flux from its core.

The magnetic field around the superconductor (Image: Tel Aviv University)

As the University's Quantum Levitation website explains:

"Quantum physics tells us that the magnetic field penetrates into the superconductor in the form of discrete flux tubes. The superconductor strongly pins these tubes, causing it to float in midair. This effect is called 'quantum levitation'."

It is this process that enables the sapphire wafer to become locked in suspension above a magnetic surface and travel in mid-air in an almost perpetual motion.

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema.   All articles by Bridget Borgobello

That is ridiculous .....!!

It almost makes me sick with excitement.

Strange I know ...

T.A. Nasir
24th October, 2011 @ 05:23 am PDT

Holly cow...this is amazing....future flying cars...

Michael Lief Carrasco
24th October, 2011 @ 12:10 pm PDT

The world truly needs flying beer delivery trucks! Interesting effect though. It took very little effort to change it's position though, so there is no apparent lifting effect, more of a holding effect.

24th October, 2011 @ 04:18 pm PDT

Wow...I have to admit...this is pretty amazing!

24th October, 2011 @ 04:18 pm PDT

What's so new about this? Levitation by Meissner Effect has been demonstrated much the same way for a long time now.

24th October, 2011 @ 04:59 pm PDT

Being able to lock the superconductor is cool, but I don't know if it would actually be useful for levitation on a large scale. Can this support much downward force before coasting downward.

Charles Bosse
24th October, 2011 @ 08:59 pm PDT

Maw-Kuen Wu working from Georg Bednorz and Karl Muller's discovery made a yttrium barium copper oxide superconductor in 1987 that worked at liquid nitrogen temperatures.

It is easy to duplicate, and a few engineers and I did the same in our laboratory the following year. We cooled the YBCO puck in LN2 and floated magnets above it. Why did it take these guys 20 years to duplicate the experiment? All you need are some basic materials, a huge press and a kiln.

25th October, 2011 @ 09:37 am PDT

Since it will not support much wieght (since it is so easy to shift position) the only use I can see for this right now would be for a navigation system in crowed locations like a train yard, or computer controlled parking stackers. How much super conductor would be needed to float a car or a bus? How much does the effect change with distance? Other than use as a frictionless bearing, what other use does this have?

25th October, 2011 @ 08:32 pm PDT

How can he touch the puck if it is -185ºC ?

Ahmet Caner Yüzügüler
29th October, 2011 @ 10:37 am PDT

Amazing! How can you cool that "puck" without subjecting it to liquid nitrogen is the trick. If you can do that then flying cars around the earth's magnetic field would be a reality in the future and you won't be needing gasoline for it. Although there is already existing prototype made by Urban in Israel about a levitating vehicle but does not use this method.

Michelene Santos
20th November, 2011 @ 05:16 am PST

Run it in a vacuum and/or gift-wrap it with a space blanket to reflect heat. Freezing the thing is not a practical way of achieving superconductivity.

Ethan Brush
12th December, 2011 @ 04:23 pm PST
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