By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Government
Working on behalf of NASA, researchers built a device with a superconducting magnet that generates a field powerful enough to levitate the water inside living animals.
How did they do it? Working on behalf of NASA, the researchers built a device to simulate variable levels of gravity. The device harbors a superconducting magnet that generates a field powerful enough to levitate the water inside living animals.
Previously, other researchers were able to levitate live frogs and grasshoppers. Mice, mammals biologically closer to humans, could help scientists in counteracting bone loss, which occurs from reduced gravity over a long period of time -- such as in deep space or on the moon.
The effort is part of a NASA investigation into how the human body can cope with long-term low gravity situations -- such as during long stints on the International Space Station or on future trips to the moon or beyond.
Repeated levitation tests showed the mice, even when not sedated, could quickly acclimate (moving, eating, drinking) to levitation inside the cage after three or four hours.
The strong magnetic fields did not appear to have negative impact on the mice, at least in the short term.
"We're trying to see what kind of physiological impact is due to prolonged microgravity, and also what kind of countermeasures might work against it for astronauts," Liu said. "If we can contribute to the future human exploration of space, that would be very exciting." They are now applying for funding for such research with their levitator.
How does the levitation work, by the way? Applying a strong magnetic field that opposes gravity repels the water in animals' bodies -- levitating them slightly.
Sep 10, 2009
Water is diamagnetic. You can impose a magnetic field on some non-ferrous materials. Once the material has an imposed magnetic field, you can levitate it against an outside field. The problem is, the amount of magnetic field density required is staggering. To levitate a frog, you need a magnetic coil several feet across, with a two inch opening in the middle. To levitate a human, you'd need a magnetic coil ... let's see... I think a hundred feet across would work. It would have to be that large to have more than a two foot opening in the coil.
I've checked several links, but have not seen how magnetic fields can move water. Were the animals injected with some metallic solution first? Does anyone know? I mean, in the second X-men movie, it was necessary to get some iron particles inside the guard before Magneto had any control over him. ;) Some links say it was ultrasonics rather than magnetic fields that were used. I could see how ultrasonics could move air that moves the animals, but I don't understand how electromagnetic energy could move anything non-metallic. I'd like to know though, because we might then be able to develop cars that sail on the radio waves of radio/TV broadcasters and the ubiquitous cell phone towers! ;)