Thursday, October 20, 2011

Awesomeness of Science: Quantum Locking Explanation

Check out this amazing video below!

What's going on? I'm not an expert, but I know the basics.

The floating disk is made of superconducting materials.

A superconductor is a material that, when cooled to very low temperatures, has no electrical resistance, meaning electricity flows freely. The electricity in a superconductor doesn't decay as it would in a normal conductor (like a copper wire).

Superconductors also expel magnetic fields (for those of you keeping tabs, this is called the Meissner effect). And, when placed above a magnet, a superconductor will appear to float. Why? A loop of wire (or a superconductor) when placed in a magnetic field, creates an electric current which induces a repelling magnetic field. (Think of it as trying to put the same pole of two different magnets together.)

But what causes the device to stay fixed in space?

The clever creators of the quantum locking device built areas into the disk where superconductivity is destroyed. This causes the superconducting wafer to "feel" the effects of the magnet in specific places. So when the magnet moves, the superconductor moves with it, but overall, it appears locked in space.

What's the vapor coming off the disk?

That's nitrogen gas. To activate the superconducting properties of the wafer, it is dipped into liquid nitrogen, which is extremely cold (about -200 C).

Very cool! (Pun intended)

-Dr. Dave

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