Thinking Tech

A hoverboard powered by quantum levitation [video]

A hoverboard powered by quantum levitation [video]

Posting in Energy

The MagSurf skateboard let's you pull a Marty McFly, even if it's for a few seconds.

Last week, I posted a video that demonstrated a new levitating technology that took the concept to whole other level. Using a technique called quantum locking, it enabled a small object to stay locked in position while suspended in mid-air. Now researchers at Universite Paris Diderot in France have applied a similar technology to build an actual hoverboard.

[check out the quantum levitation video to see what I'm talking about]

Essentially, they turned a skateboard into a one big magnetic superconductor by icing it with super-cold liquid nitrogen. What this does is it creates an electromagnetic field that’s expelled from the inside, a phenomenon known as the Meissner effect. But since the MagSurf is much larger than the ultra-thin disc used in the previous demonstration, it can't do quantum locking. Nope. Not today. Not tomorrow. And, unfortunately, not any time soon. That's why you see the volunteers stretching their arms to balance themselves as they glide across the magnetic track.

Nevertheless, some researchers such as one group in Japan are working on scaling the technology to develop levitating trains. There are already Maglev trains operating in Europe, but they rely on electromagnetic suspension, which requires additional interventions to stay stable as it travels along the track. The beauty of superconducting levitation, as you can see, is that the repelling force automatically keeps the vehicle steady.

I'd go out out on a limb and it's doubtful superconducting hoverboards will ever take off. Presently that'll require stocking up on cases of liquid nitrogen, and last I've heard, there aren't any plans to retrofit streets or sidewalks with superconducting magnets.

For those of you who want to start making things levitate already, here's a little DIY video:

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure