Magnetic Floaters

A red and blue exhibit table with an orange, white and purple information panel on top, sits in front of a green and a blue wall. On the table top sits two orange end pieces that have flat chrome metal pieces suspended between them.
A red and blue exhibit table with an orange, white and purple information panel on top, sits in front of a green and a blue wall. On the table top sits two orange end pieces that have flat chrome metal pieces suspended between them.

Metal plates (sandwiched between two powerful magnets) seem to float and repel each other when pushed down.

How it works

Stack the sheets of steel between the two strong magnets. Try taking the bottom sheet out and stacking it on top.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

Why do the sheets ‘float’ without touching each other?

Background

When the steel sheets are placed between the magnets, the sheets become magnetised.

The sheets develop a south pole in diagonally opposite corners and a north pole in the remaining two corners. The south poles repel (push away) between each sheet. So do the north poles at the other two corners of the stack. This pushing apart makes the sheets ‘float’.

Finding the science in your world

The Maglev train relies on repulsive magnetic forces to make the train levitate and move along train tracks. While normal trains experience friction between their wheels and traditional train tracks, a Maglev train generates no friction between the train and its track, reducing wear and repair costs. There are very few Maglev trains in operation around the world due to the cost of developing and constructing its specialised infrastructure.