Magnetic Levitation

Magnetic Levitation has always been something that has mesmerized people for centuries. In this experiment (which takes lots of patience), you’ll be able to levitate a pencil. All of the materials you need is in our Magnetism Kit, which guides you through this and many other activities.

The first thing you’ll need is to find a pencil and six ring magnets that just fit around the magnet. A piece of foam board is also needed along with a coin.

Now the tricky part:

Cut small slots into the foam board and insert the magnets into the foam piece. Slide the magnets along the pencil and secure with tape. You need to align the magnets as shown in the diagram. The magnets in the front should both repel the magnet attached to the pencil. In the rear, the magnets should attract. Can you guess why this needs to be the case?


Magnetic Levitation



Now, you need to have patience. Keep adjusting the magnets until you get the pencil to float — don’t give up! Soon you’ll impress all of your friends with a pencil that seems to float in thin air.


How does it work?

Magnets each have a north and south pole. When you align a magnetic north with a magnetic south, the two materials tend to attract each other with a force. You can feel this force by taking your ring magnets and sliding them along a table.  Now try flipping one of the magnets over (changing north to south). What happens?

Learning about magnetic north and south.


If the magnet is strong enough, the force it attracts or repels another magnet can be quite strong. In your case, this force was strong enough to hold up the pencil… in other words, the pencil was invisibly pushed up with a force. This is really amazing when you think about it!

These days scientists and engineers are working hard to create forces strong enough to levitate entire trains. If the train is floating off the track, it can move with very little friction, allowing it to go at very high speeds. Check out this amazing video of one of the fastest trains in the world:

One day you’ll probably be able to ride in one of these trains!