Scientists have successfully piloted a small piece of graphite around a bed of magnets with nothing but a laser. Yeah, it's a tiny, laser-controlled graphite MagLev hoverboard. The researchers, as you can see above, were also able to get the graphite disc to spin in place indefinitely.
Esther Inglis-Arkell breaks down how it works:
Graphite is a diamagnetic material — which means it will become magnetized, but at a 180 degree angle to the existing magnetic field. Put it on magnets, and it can become magnetized so it lifts right up off of them. This explains the hovering, but not the directional movement.
As the graphite heats, it attains slightly different magnetic properties. These interact with the magnets below in different ways, shoving the magnet one way or another. With the right kind of set-up, the researchers can even get the graphite spinning in place over a stack of magnets. It's light, being converted into heat, being converted into motion.
The long-term ramifications of this breakthrough are pretty intriguing: Multi-directional magnetic levitating vehicles? Forget MagLev trains—how about MagLev cars over magnetic city streets?
New kinds of solar power, maybe? If you could focus sunlight onto the magnetized graphite so that it spun indefinitely, supposedly it could serve to turn a turbine, right? Who knows! Just spitballing here ... Graphite hoverboard rides at the theme parks of the future?
Who knows. I, for one, am just glad that laser-controlled graphite hoverboards are finally a reality.