Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lexus Shows Us a Hoverboard. For real.

Hey McFly! What’s with the defying of gravity?

Ever since the movie Back to the Future II, in which several characters float over pavement (but not water?) on “hoverboards,” people have wondered whether that technology would ever reach reality – whether we’d some day be riding hoverboards around our neighborhoods. Lexus may not have gotten us all the way there, but a very real proof of concept has been created and it seems to me that it could have practical implications beyond recreation. Could this technology eventually lead to practical inventions that could be used for moving equipment or people over defined paths, such as in transportation, warehouses or airports?

Here’s one of the the movies Lexus has been showing:

The hoverboard in the video above works through something called "flux pinning" in which ceramic tiles are super-cooled with liquid nitrogen. The tiles and a magnetic track can then interact to create a field in which the board can hover, at least while the ceramic is in the proper temperature range. So there are some real limiting factors here including the ability to cool the ceramic and maintain temperature, and the fact that this only works above the magnetic track, so unlike a skateboard, it cannot just go wherever the rider wants. But it does appear to really achieve hover, and people have now ridden this board. Hard to deny the cool factor in that!

Admittedly, this may not be a generalized and practical hoverboard that achieves what Biff and Marty were riding in the movies, but it does seem like a nice demonstration of one approach to the challenge, and again, it could conceivably have applications outside of the skatepark.

What do you think? Would you ride this board? Does it seem like a step towards something useful or interesting? Leave a comment and let us know.


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