Hoverboards Are Here: Sorta
A prototype hoverboard…yes a hoverboard, was demonstrated recently that allows a man to stand on it and float around but only over certain conductive metals.
I know what you’re thinking. Either that this is bullshit or “yayyy, we finally have the hover board from Back To The Future 2”. Well, neither of those are correct.
Speaking of that movie, As fun as it was and of all the goofy science-fiction items it showcased, none caught the imagination of the public quite like that hoverboard. That wasn’t easy to do considering it also had a time-traveling Delorean, self-tying sneakers, Mr. Fusion, and those wonderful double tie thingies.
Now this isn’t a hoax in my opinion like that viral hoverboard video that fooled so many people early in 2014. The technology as it is described sounds feasible and too many reputable people have seen it in action and even used it.
It’s called the Hendo Hoverboard and is being promoted by Greg and Jill Henderson and their company Arx Pax. It’s currently being crowdfunded at Kickstarter with a goal of $250,000. Surprisingly, Greg isn’t even too interested in making a hoverboard. His primary interest was using this technology for things like quake-proofing houses and buildings. He realized that levitating foundations wouldn’t get near the attention a hoverboard would and he was clearly correct. Even if it’s feasible, I’m pretty skeptical though about how practical levitating a building would be but I do like his other interest, liscensing the hover technology as a developers kit so people can integrate into whatever the hell they want.
So, let’s get to the nitty gritty. In order of importance, you probably want to know: What can it do, what can’t it do, and how does it work.
It can support a grown man an inch or so off the ground and let you float around on it. That’s about it but hey, it’s a damn hoverboard.
Unfortunately, the list of what it can’t do is rather long and disappointing especially for Back To The Future fans.
- It can’t hover over just anything. Forget bushes and water. It has to be over certain types of conductive metals like aluminum or copper.
- It can’t last long on a charge. I’ve seen numbers ranging from a few minutes to 14,
- It can’t be controlled. There is no propulsion. You give it a push and just go along for the ride or let gravity pull you down a slope.
- It can’t be quiet, It makes an annoying high-pitched squeal that reminds some people of a leaf blower.
If you didn’t immediately assume this technology was based on magnetism, the fact that it can only hover over metal surfaces probably clued you in. When I think about a magnet and metal though, my first thought is that the magnet is attracted to the metal, not repelled by it. This is true for some metals but not all. Aluminum (and copper) for example are not magnetic in this way (at least under normal circumstances) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some interaction with the magnetic field. According to Lenz’s law, a moving magnetic field induces a current in a conductive metal. That electric field in turn produces it’s own magnetic field and it is this secondary field that is pushing against the magnetic field of the hoverboard allowing it to float. Cool huh?
This doesn’t sound much like a breakthrough though does it? The primary achievement of Henderson is the fact that he developed a way to efficiently hover over a passive surface by focusing the magnetic field. He calls this technology Magnetic Field Architecture.
In his own words:
“A magnet has an electromagnetic field and it is basically equal in all areas, it has a north ans south pole.What if you were able to take that magnet and organize the magnetic field so it was only on one side, and then you combine that with other magnetic fields in a way that amplifies and focuses their strength…that is magnetic field architecture”
What can we expect in the future? Well this is the barest beginning of this technology. Henderson calls it a Model T but even that is an overstatement. It’s hard to say where it will lead. They are already working on a way to steer and propel by further manipulation of the magnetic fields. They also want to make it solid state so it has no moving part which is always better for durability and longevity. They should also be able to reduce the noise considerably as well. Once the developer kits are available who knows what those mad and creative DIYers will do with it.
Image Credit: Arx Pax