Introduction: World's Simplest Electric Train

With just three everyday items, you can make the "World's Simplest Electric Train!" This is a fun, simple, yet great science experiment.

Materials needed:

20 gauge copper wire (non-insulated).

AA Battery

Two 5/8" x 3/8" neodymium magnets (our product DA6).

Step 1: Coil the Wire

The first thing you'll need to do is coil your copper wire! You can do this by hand, but it will take a long time and it gets tedious.

We used a 5/8" diameter dowel rod attached to a drill to quickly coil the copper wire. The video shows how. We used 20 gauge wire, in 50ft spools.

If you use the method we did, you'll want to drill a small hole through the diameter of the dowel, then feed the wire through this hole and bend it around the dowel. This will create a good starting point for the coil!

Step 2: Make the "train"

This step is pretty simple. Take your AA Battery and your magnets and put the magnets on either end of the battery.

IMPORTANT: You want to make sure that the magnets are repelling. So that means the south poles of each magnet need to be facing out, or the north. It doesn't matter which, but it does matter that if the battery wasn't there, the magnets would be repelling. (For help, watch the video at the end)

If your batteries are oriented incorrectly, you will know because the battery will just vibrate once placed into the copper wire.

Step 3: Make Your Track and Have Fun!

That's it! Truly simply.

You can make your track into all sorts of different shapes and designs...you can really have fun with it. Watch the video to see what we did!

Step 4: Experiment

We tried out different batteries, magnet sizes, and different gauge copper wire. We highlighted what we found worked best, but there are other options. Check out the table for some other options. This could be a fun, science experiment to see what works best.

Comments

author
Snow_Tiger (author)2016-11-08

Can the train climb up on a supported angle? I mean really steep

author
jgerry22 (author)Snow_Tiger2017-02-28

ive done this before and it cant go that steep

author
KJMagnetics (author)Snow_Tiger2016-11-08

No, it doesn't have enough power

author
MatthewR161 (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-10

What if we use two batteries in series?

author
KISELIN (author)MatthewR1612016-11-22

If you put them batterys in series you'll get battery1 + battery2 +battey3 =

1,5V +1,5V +1,5V gives you 4,5V Comprende?

If you put put them parallel you got the accesibilty of that them Amps they can provide, still 1,5V in output

author
KISELIN (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-22

Actually, the efficient "work" named "P" is as power in a factor in electricity, (and ower all), P=U*I, Hmm... to define "P" ..I think the "P" is about the same thing as lifting a weight of 1Kg from a niveau of 0 to 1meter in 1 second. Correct me if I'm wrong.

As in electricity we allways talk about "Watt's and Amp's", Com'on "Watts" are the product, (Power), delievered by Volts*Amps, how hard can that be to understand, (not you).

author
Snow_Tiger (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-08

Thanks!

author
144920 (author)2016-11-29

Can you replace the batteries. Instead of one magnet at each end can I use two 0.5 inch magnets on each end. I have thin magnets. Using them will save me from purchasing more. She who must be obeyed is also Scrooge.

author
dave.vaness.79 (author)2016-11-20

Do you use dead soft or half hard copper wire?

author
dick55 (author)2016-11-14

DA6 magnets really stick together! I couldn't slip one off the other. So I made a simple tool to make it easier. I drilled a 5/8 inch hole, slightly less than 3/8 inch deep, centered in the long side of a piece of 2x4 wood. This supports one magnet while pushing firmly down on the other and makes it easy to separate it at the bottom of the slide.

I also verified that it is easy for them to give you a bloody pinch if you are not very careful !

author
fgeer (author)2016-11-02

Can you wind the copper around a plastic pipe. Then the battery won't stuck in the windings!

author
KJMagnetics (author)fgeer2016-11-02

The magnets need to come in direct contact with the copper wire!

author
dick55 (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-14

I've been thinking about using a table saw to cut a length-wise slit in "1/2 inch" PVC pipe, then using steel spring wire on the magnets to maintain contact with a coil wound around the outside of the pipe. The inner diameter of 1/2 inch (normal-pressure Schedule 40) PVC pipe averages 0.622 inch, which is almost exactly the stated diameter of the 5/8 (0.625) inch DA6 magnets. Actually, my magnets measure less than 5/8 inch diameter. I took my battery/magnet assembly and dropped it into 1/2 inch pipe and it passed easily through a 3 foot length. I haven't researched conductive spring wire (or other ferrous-type material) which should lightly drag on the coil and contact more than one coil at a time.

Minimum wall thickness of the pipe is 0.109 inch, so the coil diameter is larger than one wound on a 5/8 inch dowel. However, the magnetic field strength at coil center is not a function of diameter; it only depends on current and number of turns. Also, the PVC wall material should not affect the field.

author
KISELIN (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-03

Or, "allmost" in direct contact. All them materials to be magnetic, (Hmm... Iron, Neodym.. etc.), have a permebaeality in which level they can't take more magnetivety, so, the distance between the Source and the Drain could be such low as zero, (at least close to that),

This instr. is one of them ewer, (my readings), best. Gonna do this

author
skrubol (author)KISELIN2016-11-03

Close enough to pass electrical current through the magnets to the copper.

author
Snow_Tiger (author)2016-11-09

i have the right track i have alkaline AA batteries and small neodymium magnets

author
Snow_Tiger (author)2016-11-09

please help me, my track and train does not even work

author
Snow_Tiger (author)2016-11-08

Also can there be more than one "train" in the 'tracks"?

author
KJMagnetics (author)Snow_Tiger2016-11-08

Yes!

author
mdeudon (author)2016-11-06

Cool but yes the battery is in a shortcut. How long can it works this way ?

author
KJMagnetics (author)mdeudon2016-11-07

Not very long, a few minutes!

author
WilliamW6 (author)2016-11-06

really like this. gunna build one, gunna go nuts about it. the kids I teach deserve it. Good job guys. Experiments are the railroad to the future. ? ?

author
BeardedPapa (author)2016-11-03

Really neat. Being a retired (and tired) physicist, when I analyze the magnetic fields, it looks like it would run better if the magnets were put on the battery as so: S N -Battery+ S N . Have you tried that?

author
BeardedPapa (author)BeardedPapa2016-11-03

However, it might only run one way through the "track" in that case.

author
KJMagnetics (author)BeardedPapa2016-11-03

Unfortunately, it won't work like that. It just vibrates in the track and doesn't move!

author
MarianneM5 (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-05

They said that if you don't put the magnets right way (which is so that they's repel each other if it hadn't the battery between them) it would just vibrate, so I'm guessing that happened

author
BeardedPapa (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-03

Then, I'm just going to have to build one and do further testing to understand why. :)

author
Keith0923 (author)BeardedPapa2016-11-04

See the video posted by GuissepeV8 above and you will see why it doesn't work

author
BeardedPapa (author)Keith09232016-11-04

Thanks, Keith. You are right - that explains it.

author
Keith0923 (author)BeardedPapa2016-11-05

You're very welcome ?

author
KISELIN (author)KJMagnetics2016-11-03

Give it a little "cickstart" to owercome the "status quo" in the powerfield

author
fred_ (author)BeardedPapa2016-11-03

Flip both magnets and it will run in the other direction.

author
fred_ (author)BeardedPapa2016-11-03

Check Jan16 American Journal of Physics.

It's a pushmepull you. Pulling on the north pole at one end and pushing on the north pole at the other end of the battery.

The copper tube won't work. But drop a magnet down a copper pipe and see how slow it falls :) Strong magnet and less clearance in the pipe the better the effect.

The magnets complete an electrical circuit with the battery and portion of the coil it contacts. This movement energizes a new portion of the coil and round it goes.

No electrical contact no current in the coil so no electromagnet and no movement. The plastic tube or close to electrical contact won't work.

author
bennnyboi (author)2016-11-03

once i get enough wire and the magnets im gonna make a train track for it around my whole room

author
Louis_P (author)bennnyboi2016-11-05

The batteries wouldn't be able to complete long distances as it uses up all the battery life in a few minutes.

author
jeanluc.geronimi.1 (author)2016-11-05

Hi,

Very nice instructable.

If i understand the battery is on a kind of shortcut.

Would it work with a rechargeable battery (Lipo 3,6v for exemple or would it burn the lipo ?)

Thank you.

author
Intensescroot (author)2016-11-04

Better contact Elon Musk...I think you just built his 'Hyperloop' train FOR him!

author
jpcota (author)2016-11-04

Many thanks for the link Giuseppe and dick55, never thought it was due to electrons! :-)

author
jpcota (author)2016-11-04

What exactly is the principle behind the motion?

author
dick55 (author)jpcota2016-11-04

Actually this is a self-powered solenoid.

author
GiuseppeV8 (author)jpcota2016-11-04

This is a simple video that explains the physics behind:

author
KJMagnetics (author)GiuseppeV82016-11-04

This is a great video! We reference that in our blog article about this.

author
Denis EduardoD1 (author)2016-11-03

Nice job!

Maybe if was used spherical magnets would be better, like this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Glantop-magnet-spherical-r...

author

No, spherical magnets become physically unstable and can short, see the video posted above.

author
kimvellore (author)2016-11-03

I wonder if this will work in a copper tube and if it will be strong enough to move vertically. That will be a fun experiment. It will probably need some copper fingers on the magnet or aluminum foil as fingers on the magnet for better contact.

author
Keith0923 (author)kimvellore2016-11-04

It won't work in a tube, this is explained above also there isn't enough power to make it rise vertically. See the video posted above in the comments for full explanation of the physics behind why/how this works, it's simple but fascinating as are all physics experiments.

author
GrahamH27 (author)2016-11-03

hi what a fantastic idea. Why don't you think about using it in a commercial way, either as a toy or full size.

What are way to travel and green too. Ps please remember me when you become a millionaire.lol

author
Nighter3D (author)GrahamH272016-11-04

My bet is due to energy comsumption. Between the battery terminals are 2 magnets with a negligable resistant and a Air core inductor. This project will drain the battery as fast as physically possible.

Let me do a quick estimation. Let's say that everything together (battery,magnet and coil) has a resistance of say 0.5ohm (reality is probably a lot lower). at 0.5 ohm the current would be 3Amps and consumption would be 4.5watt. The battery will get drained very fast.

author
stannickel (author)Nighter3D2016-11-04

It does chew up batteries. If you leave them in the coil, the area will get hot. There goes the power! I just finished another one and used 50 ft of 18 gauge wire, soldered it to a partial coil with about 30 ft and can now make the loop work. My magnets are of the weak persuasion, so I used three of them on each end. The battery can complete the loop more than once. My solder joint isn't the smoothest part of the coil, but most of the time the train keeps tooting right along.

author
Nighter3D (author)2016-11-04

Hmm. neat little example of the power of electromagnetic fields created by inductors.

A minor warning to anyone: This will practically short-circuit batteries. Don't use use this non-stop as the battery will heat up and don't use lithium(-ion) batteries, they can be rather explosive...

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Bio: We are a supplier of neodymium, rare earth magnets. We also love to conduct experiments with our magnets and build unique projects with them! We ... More »
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