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Q & A: accelerating a superconducting levitator

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Most recent answer: 09/21/2011
Q:
Assume a superconductor is kept floating on a magnet in a sealed glass apparatus and the system is placed on the vehicle. Will the superconducting material topple over the magent if the vehicle starts moving from rest.
- Indrajit Kuri
New Delhi, India
A:
Superconducting levitation is an amazing phenomenon, but it's not particularly special for the purposes of this question. The superconducting float is a bit like a ball held in a bowl. The levitation should be stable for small accelerations, but unstable for larger ones. In the stable case, the acceleration will cause the floating superconductor to slosh back and forth in the magnetic fields, gradually settling back to a new stable position. If the acceleration is larger, the superconductor will fall out of the magnetic field bowl.

Mike W.

(published on 09/21/2011)

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