Introduction: DIY Electro-Magnetic Levitation!

Picture of DIY Electro-Magnetic Levitation!

This is a project that will amaze and inspire! What good is all of that science know-how if we can't do something cool with it, right?

With this project we are going to use a couple of components that are easy to make or find to build a jaw dropping, mind bending Electromagnetic Levitator, or EMLEV as I call it.

With the help of some simple circuitry, a magnet, a Hall Effect sensor and a few other components you will be able to levitate objects in mid air!

Let's get started!

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

For this project we will need a controller circuit, a power source, an EM coil and a magnet along with the hardware and tools to put it all together.

The parts list is as follows:

Circuit Board
DOWNLOAD THE SCHEMATIC HERE

GET THE PARTS KIT HERE

(1) Small Circuit Board
(1) LM7805 Voltage Regulator
(1) MIC502 IC
(1) LMD18201 IC
(1) SS495 A Hall Effect Sensor
(1) 470uF Capacitor (electrolytic)
(1) 1uF Capacitor (ceramic)
(1) 0.1uF Capacitor (ceramic)
(1) 0.01uF Capacitor (ceramic)
(1) 2 Slot Input Jack (+/-)
(2) 2 Wire Connectors

(1) 12v/1a Power Supply

(1) LCD Voltage Display (optional)
(1) Green LED (optional)
(1) 10K Resistor

Solenoid
(20g 150-300 turns)
(1) Steel Bolt

Various Colored Wire (18-24g)

(2-3) Neodymium Disc Magnets

(3) 8"x10" Plexiglass Sheets
(4) 12" x 5/15" Threaded Rod
(24) 5/16" Nuts
(24) 5/16" Washers
(8) 5/16" Rubber Caps (optional)

Tools shown include soldering iron and solder, drill and bits up to 5/16" and you'll also want to have some electrical tape or shrink wrap, glue and 5/16th wrench on hand.

All the parts are available HERE:

http://www.drewpauldesigns.com/diy-electromagnetic-levitation-kit.html

Step 2: Theory and Core Components

Picture of Theory and Core Components

Why can't we just levitate metal objects with a magnet at the right distance? Because, as a ferrous material nears a magnetic field, the force increases exponentially. This is described by what is called the magnetic inverse square law which states:

Intensity1 / Intensity2 = Distance1 / Distance2

So, there is no point in space where a magnet or electromagnet will naturally suspend an object without making contact. Once in the field, there is no turning back!... Unless...

A propagating magnetic field can be shown in 2D diagrams or on magnetic viewing film as lines of force emanating from the poles. Even on an oscilloscope it is impossible to tell much about the movement and direction of the field with only snapshots in two dimensions (like this notorious illusion). When observed in 3D this field can be seen and felt to be toroidal and in respect to time we begin to see that a propagating helical field emerges. This is the same in the case of an electromagnet, and when the field collapses it does so in the opposite direction. This is described by what is usually referred to as Flemings Right and Left Hand Rules.

So, in theory, it would be possible to create alternating vortices/helices in order to adjust an object to a desired position. After doing some calculations based on the formula above we find that it is only possible by alternating these fields precisely and quickly (50,000 times per second or more!)

Problem? Not at all. With a few components we can create a propagating and collapsing electromagnetic field controlled by a sensor which detects the field strength and a circuit which applies the appropriate field to an electromagnet. Components can all be found individually here or as a kit here to make this project fast and easy.

Now that we have all of our components ready, let's get started!

Step 3: Build the Enclosure

Picture of Build the Enclosure

Building our enclosure is quite straight forward with the recommended materials but feel free to use whatever you've got lying around. This super simple enclosure was inspired by this awesome robot to show off all the internal components. When complete, the enclosure should be 8"Wx10"Dx12"H.

First, we will stack and secure our plexiglass and measure and drill four holes near the corners being sure to leave space from the edges and drill with incrementally larger bits to avoid cracking. When complete we will have four 5/16th inch holes in the corners of all three plexiglass sheets. *Be sure to note the orientation for a symmetrical fit.

Next, we will drill a hole or holes for our input jack on one of the sheets. This may vary depending on your jack but should be near the rear of the enclosure.

We will now begin building the enclosure. Start by inserting the four 5/16" threaded rods into the holes of one of your sheets. Secure the sheet about 1.5-2 inches from the bottom of the rods with one washer and nut on each side of the plexiglass and add a rubber foot on the bottom of each rod. Make sure everything is level before continuing.

Next, we will add a nut and washer about 3-4inches from the top of our rods and place the sheet with the hole for the jack on top.

The last step to our enclosure will be securing the last sheet of plexiglass to the top once we add the components in the next step.

Step 4: Mount and Secure Components

Picture of Mount and Secure Components

Now that we have a platform, we can build and install our components.

This relatively simple circuit and solenoid pair can be built according to the attached diagram or you can get a pre-built one here. Note that the SS495 gets mounted to the bottom of the coil. Adding an LED allows you to verify power and a digital voltmeter allows you to detect a load for tuning purposes, both optional, they can be wired directly to the circuits 12v input with an in-line 10k resistor on the hot lead (+). It's fun to know that one of the circuit's ICs is designed for a motor controller and the other is meant for a fan, but put them together with a few other components and we can use it to levitate objects in mid air!

We can then wire the jack to the circuit's input noting the circuit diagram and remember that the jack's case is the ground (-).

Next, we will connect Outputs 1 and 2 from our LMD18201 IC to our solenoid coil. Insert a steel bolt into the coil's center and to the head of the bolt mount the SS495 A Hall Effect Sensor to which we will connect our leads according to the diagram. Pre-built components will include connectors that can just be snapped together.

It may be helpful at this point to secure everything temporarily, carefully connect power and test the solenoid's field with your magnet.

Once satisfied, you may secure your components to the platform. The circuit should be upright to allow airflow and near the jack, the solenoid should have the side with the sensor facing down and the optional LED and LCD can be placed wherever is convenient. Adding some shrink wrap and wire covers at this point makes everything neat and helps avoid short circuits and tugged wires.

Lastly, to further secure and cover everything we will add our final plexiglass sheet. First add a nut and washer to each rod, then the last plexiglass sheet and adjust it down so that the top sheet makes contact with your solenoid, tightly holding it in place. Once in place and level, add four more washers and nuts and cap with your rubber end caps.

Step 5: Your EMLEV Is Complete! Time to Tune and Test.

Picture of Your EMLEV Is Complete! Time to Tune and Test.

We're almost complete; but we'll need to do a few calculations and a little tuning before we can start wowing friends and colleagues.

When mounting our solenoid, our orientation did not take polarity into consideration. Therefore, we will need to select the correct pole of our magnet to face our coil. To do this connect power and begin bringing the magnet into the solenoid's field. One side of the magnet will attract continuously, the other will have a tendency to lock in place several inches from our coil, make a note of this side of the magnet. Be careful not to get too close; both poles will attract violently if brought too near to the energized coil.

Now that we know which pole of our magnet we are using, we will now determine the weight which it can hold. Too little weight and the load will attract without levitating, too much weight and the magnetic field will not be able to overcome gravity and your object will fall. You can use random trial and error to find the optimal weight by attaching random objects to your magnet, however I suggest an approach which leads to more quantified results. Using small nuts and bolts, incrementally add them to your magnet and test. Once you find a balance point (you'll feel a slight click as it locks into place), note the weight of the load using a small scale. Then add or remove small amounts of weight to find your range and optimize for stability. You can then use this as a reference and start levitating anything within this weight range which is usually between 45-55 grams not including the magnet.

When functioning correctly, connect an oscilloscope to see the fields in action! Thanks to the readings from my DSO nano we can see precisely when the changing field are occurring and why.

Step 6: Prepare to Inspire and Amaze!

Picture of Prepare to Inspire and Amaze!

Congratulations! You have made the impossible possible!

Your EMLEV should now be complete, functioning and will levitate any item in the determined weight range. Now we can choose an object to levitate. Try mounting the magnet to a stone or attach nails or nuts, attach a keepsake, the possibilities are endless, these guys even levitated a live frog!

I chose a large tablespoon for effect.

"Do not levitate the spoon; that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon."
- para. The Matrix (1999)

This device will blow minds; eyes will bulge, jaws will drop and heads will explode! Is it magic? Is it science? Well, the only difference between a magician and a scientist is a scientist tells you how its done.

Thanks for checking out my Instructable and I can't wait to see what you levitate, leave pictures in the comments. Think this Instructable is cool? Let me know by clicking vote on the top of the page!

Comments

kamra (author)2017-11-01

Hey,

I have been trying to levitate my objects from last 6 months and none of my efforts is successful yet, I matched the schematic in your project with mine and I am pretty sure it's same....I am attaching the pictures of all the components I used. I also tried by varying the weight from 10-80 grams (excluding the weight of magnet discs) with the increment of 5 grams.The power supply I am using is 12v 5A.The size of the cylindrical neodymium disc is 14.5*2.5 mm. I also tried by combining 2 and more neodymium disc ( at most 6 neodymium discs together ).I used L7805CV instead of LM7805 and LMD18201T instead of LMD18201.The hall effect sensor, I am using is 95A 501. I am really curious to levitate some objects, and thanks for this instructable

DrewPaulDesigns (author)kamra2017-11-01

Hi. I commend your efforts. It appears that you may be using the incorrect/imbalanced components, though. You can get a kit here that includes everything you need and will work the first time: http://www.drewpauldesigns.com/diy-electromagnetic-levitation-kit.html

seenrg (author)2017-10-19

Thanks for creating this instructable!! I googled to find a way to levitate a decorative halloween skull before the big day in a couple weeks and found this.

What do you figure the quick and dirty might be to levitate a plastic skull with glowing eyes...say approx 2lbs?

MANY thanks and best regards.

DrewPaulDesigns (author)seenrg2017-10-20

Great! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

The best route would be to reduce the weight of your plastic skull. Get it down to about 50 grams and this device will work perfectly. Cover the stand in a black cloth and it will look awesome!

Here's the link to the parts you'll need: http://www.drewpauldesigns.com/diy-electromagnetic-levitation-kit.html

seenrg (author)DrewPaulDesigns2017-10-20

Thank you for your reply Drew; however might I not be able to simply up the suspension loading capacity by adding turns to the induction coil? a higher attraction force obviously means more weight capacity or is the circuit controller the limit to the force potential somehow?

DrewPaulDesigns (author)seenrg2017-10-22

My pleasure. It will take a bit more than adding a few turns to the coil for a number of reasons. Primarily though, the scale is not linear and the size of your circuit/coil increases exponentially with reference to the weight which is levitated.

GIANNISL2 (author)2017-10-04

ONE SIMPLE QUESTION....CAN I USE A 12V 5 KGR OR 10 OR 40 ELECTROMAGNET WITH THIS PCB????WITHOUT MAKING THE COIL MYSELF?THNX IN ADVANCE HOPE FOR A QUICK RESPONSE

Probably not. The board described here only produces a few watts. There is a kit available here, however:
http://www.drewpauldesigns.com/diy-electromagnetic-levitation-kit.html

the whole supply voltage for your pcb AND the electromagnet is12 volts right...so probably you need a 2 or 3 amp 12v power supply if the 12volt electromagnet is a little stronger..!!!

WHY DO YOU SAY THAT?THESE ELECTROMAGNETS ARE WEAK?THEY ARE IN THE RANGE OF mA...EVEN THE ONE I BOUGHT THAT SAYS CAN HOLD 40KGRS....I DOUBT IF IT CAN HOLD MORE THAN 1...IS RATED 10 WATTS IN 12V ...SO THEY ARE NOT POWER CONSUMING..!!!

jmleugenio (author)2017-09-25

Awesome project.. If we want to scale it up for upto 500grams to 1kg? what component from the lists we have to change?? Any computation we consider?

PoppyP4 (author)2017-09-13

hey, this is an awesome project, i want to scale it up, could you give me the math for it? or any links?

Moonman0922 (author)2017-05-22

Hey I just saw this and I think it is super cool! I want to scale it up a bunch and make a floating platform that I could stand on! is that possible, or safe?

I love your enthusiasm and thanks!
Is it possible, yes! This type of electromagnetic levitation suspends an object from above however, a floating platform requires mechanisms in order to maintain balance. Next, you'll need to do the math; you will need to scale up somewhere around 2,000 times to support your weight.
Is it safe? No. Scaling it up to that size will require electromagnets powerful enough to crush your skull like and egg and electrical currents that will melt you from the inside out.

pmylegoboy (author)2017-03-16

I have 2 12" subwoofers that I pulled out of a sub box. They should work, the cones just separated from the interior cones. Would they work as is with this project?

Great idea. The coils from those speakers should do the trick.

Kamil AngeloA (author)2017-01-24

There's no specifics on how to build the coil? Just "20g 150-300 turns", no computation or we can just use whatever we want?

Also, does having a wider diameter coil help with the stability of the levitated object?

GerrB (author)2016-06-29

I have bought several of these on amazon, you can also buy them on eBay. They sell for as low as $20. Their usually sold with a small world globe that contains a magnet also with picture frames, sports balls etc. I will add some small neodymium magnets around the circumference. Get a solar waver toy from dollar tree, remove solar panel circuit and coil (carefully).
Position coil near magnets and you will have a nice levitating solar powered pulse motor globe (or whatever toy you wish to substitute). Here's a link to a video of my solar powered levitating rotating spinning balls! https://youtu.be/S8dOaUYAheM

offseid (author)2016-06-28

Brilliant. Well done and congrats on winning prizes in two contests!!!

DrewPaulDesigns (author)offseid2016-06-28

Thank you so much and thanks to everyone who read, got the kit and tried it out! I hope this not only leads to lots of cool desk toys, but I hope this can be used for hyper low friction mechanical apparatuses, motors, alternators and much more. With all of us working together, this technology can lead us to a revolution in design and engineering. Thanks!

kamra (author)2016-06-18

Thanks for the amazing instructable!!
But I am not able to float my neodymium magnet ,there is a vibration in the magnet whenever it approaches near to electromagnet.The magnet either attracts to electromagnet or rel it on changing the magnet sides.
Do we need to calculate the size of neodymium magnet according to our electromagnet?
Please do tell me the other possibilities of solving this problem.

DrewPaulDesigns (author)kamra2016-06-19

Thanks for the kind words. First, you want to make sure your magnet has the correct polarity facing your solenoid. From, there you will need to experiment with the weight until you get it just right (mine has a range of 45-55g). I hope this helps!

Turdbot (author)2016-06-09

cool

jimbalump (author)2016-05-26

There's actually an MIT article with this exact schematic that does a good job of explaining how this system works. Here's the link: http://web.mit.edu/klund/www/papers/ACC04_maglev.pdf

DrewPaulDesigns (author)2016-05-18

Its been spinning all night... Why is it spinning???

The scope readings show a slight signal cross fade... Maybe the fade plus the momentum is enough to keep it revolving given the hyper low friction. Maybe I'll bring it to the lab at the university and put it in a vacuum chamber to see what happens...

slanwar (author)DrewPaulDesigns2016-05-26

Would spin for longer time because no air to slow down but eventually our earths gravity would win.

VincentR32 (author)2016-05-24

Do you think I could find a solenoid suitable for this project in furniture available in every day life? Speakers, Headphones, Car, Microwave, Electronics...

Just to put a recycled/reused label on the project :)

Also, what do you think is the biggest solenoid I could put in this circuit? 50/100/400g?

Absolutely. Cars and motorcycles have big ones. Speakers, printers and machines with linear movement often use them. But really, you can easily just make one with some copper wire, a spool and bit of patience.

The biggest? Now we're talking! How about the electromagnet from a junkyard crane? You'd probably need to step up the components and get a few deep cycle batteries though.

You can also get any hard to find parts by clicking the links in the parts list. Let us know how it comes out and post pictures in the comments!

And what mesures should I take to make sur that I have the right solenoid for the circuit board and power supply you propose for this Project?

Haha! I was more talking about finding a solenoid that I could use with the electronic that you propose.

jimbalump (author)2016-05-25

Do you happen to have the part number for the solenoid you used or additional specifications to find an equivalent part?

lawsonrw (author)2016-05-22

If the object is metallic why is the metal piece necessary?

DrewPaulDesigns (author)lawsonrw2016-05-23

Good question! Here we are balancing opposing forces, gravitation and levitation we'll call them. Various combinations of objects can be used in various orientations as long as the system maintains it's relative equilibrium. Thanks for checking out my article.

mmmelroy (author)2016-05-20

totally awesome!

blyzz (author)2016-05-19

So here's a thought: How about mounting a small cpu/gpu fun to cool down the item being levitated (off center)? It might not cool it off that much, but it might put slow rotation on the object.

Maybe use a PWM circuit to slow down the fan if it's spinning too fast to reduce noise? Or just under-volt a fan? (I'm using a 12V case-fan running off of the USB (5V) on a Raspberry Pi to cool down the same Raspberry Pi from around 57°C to around 43°C. The bonus of using the 5V is that the fan spins much slower and produces next to no noise.

DrewPaulDesigns (author)blyzz2016-05-19

Cool idea. I was surprised to find, though, that the unit runs very cool and for extended periods of time.
Another interesting characteristic is that given a gentle spin when in the device, an object will continue to spin at a constant speed while in the field without any additional external force needed. It will just hover and spin for days.

blyzz (author)DrewPaulDesigns2016-05-20

I'm not terribly surprised that it remains cool. Please forgive my dry humour; when I said "Add a fan to cool it down" I was saying it in the same vein as saying that the propeller on an aircraft is there to keep the pilot cool... The purpose of the fan would merely be to add a slight spin to the floating object. (or you could forgo it and just give it a nudge when you place it there :-) )

MarcosY (author)2016-05-19

The frame can be modified to fit and hide all the stuff inside the cabinet, no microwave needed haha

MarcosY (author)2016-05-19

Super aweosome bro :D

I think that your device will blow more minds if it is in stealth mode, no cables or nothing to the eyes just the "spoon"

Thank you for sharint it

DrewPaulDesigns (author)MarcosY2016-05-19

My pleasure. I noticed it only draws like 12w so I'll probably power it with a small solar panel, charge circuit and battery. How would you make it more "stealth?"

MarcosY (author)DrewPaulDesigns2016-05-19

The only think that cross my mind is like an enclosure in some spot of the house, cables can be hide in the box
Something like a microwave built in cabinet.

PatrickO41 (author)2016-05-19

Is there much of a price difference of buying the kit vs buying parts individually?

Yea. The kit will save you a few bucks and a whole lot of time.

kudzu63 (author)2016-05-19

I can build the platform thing and throw a magnet at it. That's it. That's as far as I can go. Awesome by the way.

DrewPaulDesigns (author)kudzu632016-05-19

It's super easy, especially with a pre-built circuit and solenoid. You should give it a try!

KaremB1 (author)2016-05-19

Amazing..

DrewPaulDesigns (author)KaremB12016-05-19

I know. It still blows me away every time I look at it. Pictures don't do it justice; you've got to build one!

Jedi_zombie85 (author)2016-05-19

AWESOME

DrewPaulDesigns (author)2016-05-18

This thing only pulls like 12w. Wouldn't it be cool if it was solar powered? What do you think?

If you already have the Solar Panel, Why not? :)

Ordering parts now...

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am a tech maniac; from media, marketing and design to alternative energy and more. Check out my website for links to all my projects.
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