Hoverboards May Soon Be RealRemember that classic scene in Back to the Future II, where Marty hops onto a hoverboard to escape the bad guys? Well, that scene isn’t as much science fiction as it sounds. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have demonstrated amazing levitation using superconductors and magnets.
Quantum LevitationSuperconductors reject all magnetic lines from passing through them. They do this perfectly, thanks to the weird nature they adopt when cooled to extremely low temperatures. While you could use this for levitation (think like a leaf in an updraft), it isn’t very controlled. Quantum locking fixes this.
If a superconductor has a flaw in it, the magnetic lines can leech through it. Make these flaws small and uniform and you can channel a large number through. When the lines go through, they are squeezed close together into what are known as quantum flux tubes. These tubes are extremely narrow, but burst out to full size again after leaving the superconductor.
This is quantum locking. The superconductor is trapped between two magnetic fields, stationary in space from being squeezed on both sides. The superconductor floats in space just like you would want a levitating thing to do.
But the real trick comes when you line of the field lines of your magnet source. If you line them up properly, you can actually slide the superconductor around as if it were on a track. And thanks to the nature of superconductors, the entire operation is frictionless, with the only slowing force coming from the air.
Unfortunately, we still don’t have any superconductors that can function at room temperature. Right now, they all have to be chilled with liquid nitrogen to even begin functioning. And even if we do manage to make room temperature superconductors, we would still need roads made of magnets to rid on. But who knows? Maybe in the near future your children will be riding on hoverboards as you float in hovercars.
Quantum Levitation Photo by : Quantum Levitation, Itay Kishon