Diamagnetic Levitation June 10, 2009

Ever tried to levitate a magnet with another magnet? The trick is to place a diamagnetic material in between the two magnets. Normal magnets have poles, where opposite poles attract and like poles repel; diamagnetic materials repel both magnetic poles equally, and can be used to balance out the force of attraction between two magnets. Getting a magnet to hover in the air can be a bit touchy, but it can be done without too much trouble.

Bismuth and pyrolytic graphite are both diamagnetic and can be obtained relatively cheaply. You’ll also want a small neodymium magnet to levitate, and any normal ceramic magnet can be used to do the levitating. I purchased a couple strips of pyrolytic graphite and a 2mm neodymium cube magnet from SciToys and used a small ceramic magnet that I’d bought from Radio Shack. The idea is to place the pyrolytic graphite between the neodymium magnet and the ceramic magnet, with the ceramic magnet above the graphite, and the neodymium magnet below. Then slowly adjust the height of the ceramic magnet until you get the neodymium magnet to hover between the ground and the graphite. The graphite should be placed close to the neodymium magnet, and you can put a second piece of pyrolytic graphite below the neodymium magnet for additional stability, but with careful adjustment only one piece is necessary.

So, here is my “levitation device” built primarily from leftover metal covers that come with Radio Shack’s plastic project enclosures (note that all non-magnetic metal was used of course). No electricity or optical illusions, just the wonders of magnetism:

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Leave a Reply