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Mag Surf: Quantum skateboard defies gravity

What do you get when you cross a skateboard with a maglev train? A way cool science fair demo.

superconductor magnetic levitating skateboard
Who says you need a train to ride the magnetic rails?
Video screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

It isn't quite Marty McFly's "Back to the Future" hoverboard, but this superconductor skateboard built by researchers in France lets you catch air without having to do anything other than put your feet on it. The Mag Surf ride is a couple of inches off the ground, albeit in a straight line and with no change in altitude.

Mag Surf is a demonstration of superconductor magnetic levitation. The board, which vaguely resembles a skateboard, rides on a magnetic track. Super-cold liquid nitrogen turns a special metal material on the bottom of the board into a superconductor, which powerfully repels the magnetic field in the track and pins the board to the edge of the field. The effect is like an invisible rail. (See the video below.)

The demonstration was put on by the Universite Paris Diderot at its science fair last week. Mag Surf was built by researchers in the university's Materials and Quantum Phenomena Laboratory.

Despite the requirement for a track and the rigid relationship between the track and the board, there's potential for more interesting rides than the one in the video. The key is building the right track. Check out this viral video of a similar superconductor levitation project by researchers in Israel. Now imagine a magnetic track modeled after roller coasters and you begin to see the potential.

Mag Surf is closely related to experimental superconductor maglev trains like this Japanese prototype. The Universite Paris Diderot demo was aimed at promoting research in urban transportation.

It's not clear if superconductors are the best way to go for maglev trains, and maglev trains on the whole face an uncertain future. But hey, even if the transportation thing doesn't work out, all this research is bringing us closer to a way gnarly amusement ride.

(Via Trend Hunter)