Using only permanent magnets and a light source Japanese scientists have succeeded in controlling the motion of a magnetically levitating graphite disk. The technique can be used to develop light-powered maglev transportation systems and to convert sunlight into kinetic energy.
For their experiment Dr. Masayuki Kobayashi and Professor Jiro Abe of Aoyama Gakuin University in Kanagawa, Japan exploited the diamagnetic properties of pyrolytic graphite. When graphite is exposed to an external magnetic field it generates is own repelling magnetic field. This property called diamagnetism is found in all materials but is usually very weak. Only in a few materials, like graphite, diamagnetism is so strong it causes levitation.
Levitating diamagnetic objects can be put in motion in one of two ways. The first is to manipulate the magnetic field on which the object floats. A maglev train, for instance, is propelled forward by system of changing magnetic fields pulling at the front of the train while pushing at the back.
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