Superconducting levitation

Collage of levitating superconductor, train and magnets

Levitation, the ability to float in defiance of gravity is a phenomenon that has captured the imagination for centuries, from Indian fakirs to science fiction including the iconic images of Luke Skywalker's landspeeder. From a technological perspective the desire to levitate an object has a simple appeal: in the absence of physical contact, friction will be minimized thereby providing a considerable boost to the energy efficiency of moving objects. However, levitation in practise is a far more tricky enterprise, as anybody who has played with permanent magnetics will know.

Superconductors provide the answer to stable levitation!

We have built a model superconducting levitating train using high-temperature superconducting material and rare-earth permanent magnets. It is the perfect demonstration for this beautiful and inspiring phenomenon and one of the rare opportunities for students of all levels to see quantum mechanics in action. It has been used widely in lectures, open houses, and in outreach activities for the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute.