It’s pretty cool to see magnetic levitation in action, and you can actually do a little experiment at home to see it for yourself. All you need are some strong magnets, foam board, an index card, a pencil, and some patience!
Magnetic levitation is a technique where an object is suspended in the air using nothing but magnetic fields as support. With a little practice, you can make the pencil float in midair by using the magnetic force to oppose the gravity pull. The Shanghai Maglev Trains, which employ magnetic fields to levitate above the track and reach speeds of over 300 kilometers per hour, operate on the same principle. So next time you’re looking for a fun science project to do, remember that magnetic levitation is not just for trains – it’s for anyone with a curiosity about how the world works.
( Disclosure : Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase)
MATERIALS TO make magnetic levitation at home
You will need
- 6 Ring Magnets ( buy from Amazon )
- Foam Board or a cardboard box
- Strong Plastic card or strong index card as a stopper
- Pencil or Dowel ( that will fit securely in ring magnets )
How do you make a pencil levitate?
- First, cut a large rectangular piece from the foam board. Make 3 cuts 5cm wide in the foam board parallel to each other from a distance at 2cm, 6.5cm and 12.5 cm from one end of the board. Then, put the strong plastic care ( the stopper) in the first slit at 2 cm.
- Now, place the four magnets in the remaining four slits. This is how the assembly should look like.
- Fit two ring magnets onto the pencil or dowel, at a distance from each other. The polarities of these magnets do not matter. I used a rubber band on the pencil to keep the magnets in place, as shown in the picture.
- Check that the magnet near the pencil tip is being attracted to the ring magnets in the center slit.
- Next, make sure that the magnet on the rear end of the pencil is being repelled by the remaining two magnets in the last slit.
- Finally, bring the pencil between the four magnets with its tip resting on the stopper. This will make the pencil levitate in the air. You might need to adjust the placement of magnets on the pencil so that the forces are balanced, to make it hover in the air freely.
- Test to make sure that the pencil is levitating completely.
Isn’t it AMAZING to see the pencil levitate!
How does a magnetic levitation work?
There are multiple forces working on the pencil. There is a magnetic force of attraction from the front magnets. And a magnetic force of repulsion from the back magnets. The stopper is providing a force of reaction against the forward movement in order to keep the pencil stable and not let it move forward. That way, the forces are all perfectly balanced in the horizontal direction. Similarly, in the vertical direction, there is a gravitational force and the front magnets provide a downward force and the back magnets provide an upward force. The interplay of all these different kind of forces keep the pencil stable and levitating in air without support.
Don’t have time to buy all the materials, then this kit has tons of experiments to do with magnets.
So, there you have it! A simple way to make a magnetic levitation at home. So, with all the amazing things we can learn from magnets, there’s no reason not to get started today!
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