Picture of Diamagnetic Levitation Experiment
Magnetic levitation is really fun to experiment with, and can make a great science fair project. However, it's hard to get dramatic results--the problem goes back to Earnshaw's theorem from 1842. He proved mathematically that any electrical or magnetic levitation would require an extra axis of stabilization...a force from a different direction.

You can show this with ring magnets. Put them on a stick, and they do indeed float over each other. However, the stick is required, that's your extra axis of stabilization--remove it, and the magnets simply flip over and jump to each other, no longer floating. The phenomenon of diamagnetism provides a simple, inexpensive solution to this problem and gives fairly dramatic results.

Most people are familiar with ferromagnetic materials--iron, steel and permanent magnets. These materials are attracted by magnetic fields, and can keep their magnetism after exposure to the field. Diamagnetic materials include carbon-graphite, water, protein, DNA, wood, bismuth, silver, diamond and gold. When exposed to a magnetic field, these materials induce a weak magnetic field in the opposite direction. Superconductors are perfectly diamagnetic, but require liquid nitrogen to work--not something that most folks have a jug of in their fridge!

Diamagnetism is the key to this experiment, and provides the extra stabilizing force needed. We'll be using carbon-graphite and bismuth because they have the strongest diamagnetic effect.

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armando90993 years ago
Hey nice tutorial but.. one question.. Can the temperature variations affect it?
You can buy them online. That is the best resource. try something like Ebay. Or you can also find raw copper from junk yard and then melt it in your back yard. Keep in mind that Bismuth gives the best result of all. I am also into this and currently in China. Here there is abundance of Bismuth so i will try with bismuth or graphite. Copper slabs are expensive here and i dont have a backyard :)
dragonis5 years ago
Is there anywhere that you can just locally go out and buy the carbon-graphite blocks. I need it fast this week. btw, i live in fremont, ca if that helps.

Rukmi dragonis5 years ago
hey.. i want dose... where do u live?? i m frm india.. did d project wrkd??? i wanna make it within a week or so..
scitoys.comI made one of these from Scitoys.com, except instead of graphite I used Bismusth and melted it into disks. Its awesome!
that is my second favoritwe website
hey man scitoys is really fooling u all the crap available there is damn expensive the laser pointer that they sell for 11$ is actually availaible for 0.6$
where can i get the graphite?
Starshock016 years ago
he said carbon twice...
cris11337 years ago
i have a magnet from a broken harddrive damn that thing is powerful!
sgt.paper8 years ago
this is realy close to this web site www.scitoys.com
Otherpower (author)  sgt.paper8 years ago
It was back in 2002 when we first tried this experiment and put up our web page about it. We were trying to maximize the levitation we could get (and were trying to make the CG chips float over the magnets). We exchanged lots of information with Simon from scitoys.com trying to make it all work; he's a good guy and will treat you right if you order from him. His business was just getting started back then too. DAN
ya ive ordered a lot of magnets off of him and hes realy good about getting it shipped =D
codesuidae8 years ago
Can the rig be flipped over? Rather than using the large magnet to lift the small magnet, can it be placed below to repel it?
Otherpower (author)  codesuidae8 years ago
That's possible, but I've never tried it. It's probably easier to make the carbon graphite chip float over magnets, as shown in step 6. Give it a try! DAN
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO floating aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh cool
Vendigroth8 years ago
i like magnets : ) i'll have to take my old neodymium headphones apart to get at the magnets
Otherpower (author) 8 years ago
Thanks for the feedback, folks. I'm glad that putting my link on only the last page was subtle enough that folks didn't think it to be shameless self-promotion. Trebuchet -- ferrofluid would only be affected by the lifting magnet, not the diamagnetism. Ditto the tiny magnet, it would just get covered with glop. Stay tuned for some fun with ferrofluid, though--heh heh. Now that I have a camera that can shoot reasonable video, I'm going to put some stuff together on ferrofluid. It really dances to Jimi Hendrix.....
crapflinger8 years ago
the part that impressed me most is the fact that you WORK for a company that sells all the materials to make this project...but you never linked to any of them with your own company...shows where your dedication is...to the science...not the wallet..deffinitely hard to find now adays...deffinite props! very well writen and excellent explanations...
trebuchet038 years ago
I'm really glad you posted the last step..... There have been a few members in the past that ripped this pictures just to be "first" without even doing the experiment... What's even funnier is when they didn't know the principle and tried to pass it off as just anything magnetic :P Out of curiosity and a luck of funds to try myself.... what would ferro fluid look like in there?