Superconductor levitates around circular supermagnet track

Computers & Mobile Education Science

Before going any further, I really should say thanks to William J. Beaty, a research engineer in the Chemistry department at the University of Washington, who e-mailed me a few days ago with a link to his page of odd physics videos, which I have been systematically mining for content ever since!

This latest gem shows a piece of high temperature superconductor floating around a closed track made of rare-earth magnets. YouTuber majos explains:

High-temperature superconductor (Yttrium barium copper oxide) floating in the magnetic field of Neodymium magnets. This phenomenon is called the Meißner-Ochsenfeld-Effect and was discovered in 1933. The superconductor has to be cooled with liquid nitrogen which has a temperature of 77 K or −196 °C. If it is placed in a strong magnetic field it remains in its position. It also works if you turn the track upside down.

6 thoughts on “Superconductor levitates around circular supermagnet track

  1. Simon says:

    Ah, the old 1-2-3 superconductor! I made some of these at my school and entered them in a science fair back in, oh my god, 1990! There were mixed from ingredients begged form the university, pressed in a little metal tool I made no the lathe myself and cooked in the old metalwork room furnace with oxygen from the Oxy Acetylene welding bottle flowing over them during the cool down.

    I was utterly amazed when they actually worked. Back then even getting a tiny rare earth magnet to test them with was difficult but I got one and got it to float. It wasn’t till much later I learned that the magnet should also hover UNDER the superconductor so I never tried that. There were many happy hours of traveling into the city to get a thermos flask full of liquid nitrogen to do testing (and for playing with). I used to ride home on the bus, great clouds of vapour puffing out the top of the thermos every time the bus went over a bump. I had a cork in the top with a hole drilled through it to let the gas out and the thermos in a cardboard box stuffed with newspaper to hold it upright and catch any spill over. Fun times!

    I feel old now.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      …in my undergraduate inorganic chemistry lab at UT-Austin. Nobody could make the synthesis work. Was a big disappointment!

  2. Tekee says:

    While this is similar to the Meissner-Ochsenfeld-Effect which is exhibited in Type I superconductors, this is actually a different phenomenon exhibited in type II superconductors. The type II superconductor in this video is a melt textured YBaCO which employs flux pinning within the superconductor. In effect, these pinning sites sort of latch onto the magnetic flux lines and ride along them as if they were rails. This wiki explains the difference.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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