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B Levitating a metal ball

  1. Jul 14, 2017 #1
    Hi guys,
    I am trying to produce a desktop feature for a client which consists of a 3d printed cube with a metal ball at its center. I can suspend the ball in the center of the cube using a support or piece of rod, but I would really like to try and make it levitate using an electromagnet. I would like it to be suspended in a similar fashion to the Levitron method, without any magnets above the sphere.
    I have done some research into the area but cannot find the specific information I am looking for, i.e:
    1: Can it be done with a metal ball bearing or does it need to be a magnet to work properly? And if so, would a spherical magnet work?
    2: Can you guys recommend any links to suitable electromagnets that I could purchase?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2017 #2


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    I think you would need a (non-existent) magnetic monopole. A spherical magnet would do you no good since it would just rotate and slam into the fixed magnet. Even the Levitron only stay up as long as it rotates (it's unstable otherwise, as your would be all of the time). What I'm saying is no, it can't be done with a magnet and a ball bearing.
  4. Jul 14, 2017 #3


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    I'm wondering if it would be possible to get a small foil covered foam ball to hover in a charged field powered by a hidden battery.
  5. Jul 14, 2017 #4
    Doesn't matter if it is hidden or not,
    A battery has two terminals and won't do anything useful unless both of them are part of a circuit.
  6. Jul 14, 2017 #5


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    I meant using the battery as a power source to drive something like a mini Van Der Graaf generator, assuming it would be possible to mask the noise.
  7. Jul 15, 2017 #6
    Maybe the easiest way to levitate is by a steady airflow from below, like they do with ping pong balls.
  8. Jul 16, 2017 #7
    That would of course happen with a single fixed magnet. But how about several electromagnets with a suitable control to adapt to the rotation?
  9. Jul 16, 2017 #8


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    It is perfectly possible to arrange for a conducting metal ball to be suspended over an arrangement of 'electromagnets', driven by AC. Maglev trains use this principle. Unfortunately, the system requires complicated electronic circuitry and a controller system.
    Also, you may have seen levitation of a superconducting object over a magnet. Problem is that you would need, at least, a constant supply of liquid nitrogen to keep it levitated!!
  10. Jul 16, 2017 #9
    You would probably end up with a liquid ball as well, as inducing constant eddy currents to keep it levitated will cause it to heat.
  11. Jul 19, 2017 #10
    Thanks for all the feedback guys, it helped clear up a lot of my grey areas. I am trying to keep this piece as simple as possible so complicated control systems and liquid nitrogen are out of the question, as fun as they would be! I am leaning towards using a spinning disc magnet fixed inside a table tennis ball, this would hopefully satisfy my levitation and magnet stability needs!
    Any other ideas or suggestions are more than welcome!
  12. Jul 19, 2017 #11


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