Cornell researchers are working on a way to make hovering vehicles a reality. By pairing superconductors with permanent magnets, they've figured out a way to get objects to hover with complete stability without any power necessary.
The only catch? The superconductor needs to be at a temperature below -300 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that this tech will be used to keep spacecraft tethered together without touching rather than to build a real model of Luke's speeder from Star Wars. Pity. So wait, how exactly is this going to work?
Magnetic pinning works by placing two modules — one with an unpowered, but supercooled, superconductor and the other with an ordinary permanent magnet — near each other. The permanent magnet induces currents in the superconductor that are persistent and exactly opposite to the fields generated by the magnet. By strategically placing the magnets and superconductors, the orientation of both modules can be pinned at any orientation. In essence, one "grips" the other with an invisible magnetic glove, and will resist any movement. Even in the presence of outside forces, magnetic pinning will hold the two modules in place. The effect is so intense that is very difficult to move them, even when physically pushed from the outside. According to Cornell, it is almost impossible to force the modules to touch one another, making the technique a fail-safe system for preventing spacecraft modules from colliding with each other.
OK, well that is awesome. Now if they could only figure out a way to get this working at room temperature we'd officially be living in the awesome version of the future we all dreamed about when we were 11. Let's make this happen, scientists! [EE Times via New Launches]