Science Can Make A Hoverboard! (Sort-of…)

Some die-hard sci-fi fans may think science has failed us because we don’t have hoverboards like in Back To The Future II yet and it’s getting close to the “future” that was in the movie (2015), but science is getting pretty damn close. There is an interesting phenomenon called superconductivity that may help us to get that hoverboard and do even crazier things like, according to the recent game Bioshock Infinite, build flying cities.

The majestic hoverboard from Back To The Future

The majestic hoverboard from Back To The Future

There are certain materials, like ceramics, that when cooled to a low temperature (some can be cooled to a low enough temperature with liquid nitrogen) they gain zero electrical resistance. This means that if you put a charge into this superconducting wire, took away the energy source and then made a circle out of the wire, the charge would never dissipate. What about in 10 years? Nope 100% of the energy still there. 100 years? Nope. HOW ABOUT WHEN THE SUN GOES RED GIANT AND EATS THE EARTH? Nope, there will still be the same amount of charge going through that wire, until the sun melts it by engulfing the Earth that is.

CERN-cables-p1030764

The top wires carry the same amount of energy as the bottom wire, the bottom one is superconducting.

Tons of energy gets lost from the simple process of moving it from place to place, this is caused by resistance in the wire heating it up and therefore releasing energy. This is the same concept that an electric stove takes advantage of to heat its coils, the coils are highly resistant and therefore expel a lot of heat in-turn cooking your food. This idea of no energy being lost in transport is so powerful (pun completely intended) that the most prominent science research facility in the world, CERN, uses superconducting wires in the machine that they used to find the higgs boson not too long ago, the Large Hadron Collider or LHC. The picture to the right shows just how powerful these superconducting wires can be.

The field bends around the material mostly except for some places where it pierces it in tiny distances

The field bends around the material mostly except for some places where it pierces it in tiny distances

The more entertaining part, and what I like the most about the phenomenon, is that while the superconductive material is in a state of superconductivity it ejects most magnetic fields, but some of it squeezes through. The diagram to the left shows it very well. This may seem like just some random science trivia but it is the key to that hoverboard. What this really means is that the material will be locked in its position wherever you put it as long as there is a powerful enough magnetic field surrounding it. Whatever position you move the material in, whether it is left, right, forward, back, or UP AND DOWN, it will stay where you put it. LITERALLY. LOCKED. IN. SPACE.

The implications of this concept is amazing, huge floating cities, millions of sci-fi fans (including myself) screaming out in joy at having a hoverboard and subsequently screaming in pain as we fall off our hoverboards, but there is one small problem. Remember how they have to be cooled using liquid nitrogen? Well liquid nitrogen only costs about the same as milk but it still puts a huge hold on being able to mass produce anything using this concept. To be able to actually use anything taking advantage of superconductivity the object would have to be constantly cooled with liquid nitrogen which, as you can imagine, would be a pain. Currently scientists are trying to find a material that shows this phenomenon of superconductivity at room-temperature allowing all of these amazing inventions to become real-life. Unfortunately and funny enough, the science for a time-travelling DeLorean is still much farther behind, when it actually took time-travelling to the future to GET the hoverboard.

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