WATCH: Magnets Suspend Object In the Air

Quantum trapping


Quantum locking, quantum trapping, quantum levitation, flux pinning. Whatever you designate this phenomenon, prepare to have your mind detonated.

Yesterday a physics team from Tel-Aviv University performed a demonstration with a sapphiric crystal wafer that appears to be floating in the air—that’s right, levitating. Why is this block of matter ostensibly immune to the encompassing force of gravity? Because it is offset by another physical force: magnetic fields. Due to the ultra-thin, ultra-cooled superconductor layer applied to the surface of the crystal wafer, the object takes on a diamagnetic property which counteracts both the track’s magnetic field as well as the gravitational effect. This delicate interplay “locks” the object in position and creates the illusion that the object is levitating.

Or in the words of the presenters: “Suspending a superconducting disc above or below a set of permanent magnets, the magnetic field is locked inside the superconductor; a phenomenon called ‘Quantum Trapping’.”



To replicate this party trick you will first need the right type of film coating; the Tel Aviv team made good use of yttrium barium copper oxide. You then supercool this layer to temperatures approaching the freezing point of liquid nitrogen (63 K; −210 °C; −346 °F). At such frigid temperatures, an equal and opposite magnetic field is generated and gravity is repelled, resulting in  the eye-catching proscenium you see in the video.



Don’t expect hoverboards or pendulous vehicles just yet, however, as we know of no room-temperature superconductors flush with these properties (yet). The superconductor’s repellent properties diminish above a critical temperature threshold. Secondly, magnetic surfaces as seen in this demonstration are not exactly ubiquitous. The sheer strength of the magnetic fields required to sustain something as large as a car, say, is not presently feasible.

External links:

A Mind-Boggling Demonstration of Quantum Levitation

Joe Hansen: It’s Okay To Be Smart