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Physics Students Work with Superconductors to Make the Technology for Hover Boards a Thing of the Present

Written by Rachel Drachman

Professor Sullivan and his student use superconductivity to levitate a small puck. Photo by Adam Baker.

Ever since the movie Back to the Future Part II came out, many people had been hoping that by October 21, 2015, they would be able to maneuver around town on hover boards like Marty McFly did in the film. Alas, the date predicted in the movie has come and gone, and hover boards have not yet come into being. But that fictional hover board may be closer to reality than we realize.

“The hover board scene in Back to the Future is actually not all that far-fetched,” said Matthew Sullivan, an associate professor of physics. "This is because of superconductors.”

Superconductors have unique magnetic and electrical properties. When properly cooled, a superconductor will resist magnetic attraction and actually float above a magnet. Sullivan’s students built a Möbius track made of magnets and grew the superconducting crystals to go in a puck that would levitate above the track.

When asked to describe his work, Dimitri Hector ’19 said, “I usually tell my parents, ‘Oh, I’m making stuff fly.’”



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