The World’s first unpowered horizontal magnetic levitation device

To anyone interested in magnets and magnetism levitation and devices that facilitate this are fascinating, none more-so than the Halitron™. The Halitron is the world’s first unpowered horizontal magnetic levitation device and has just been launched via an exciting Kickstarter campaign.

The Halitron lets you spin and levitate a top within a carefully calculated magnetic field. The magnetic field effectively traps the spinning top, allowing it to float in mid-air. The magnets used are ferrite magnets and no electrical power is required to operate the Halitron. First4magnets is proud to have supplied the key magnets for the working prototypes and support the launch of the product via the Kickstarter campaign.

How does the Halitron work?

The Halitron uses magnetic technology which allows low frictional horizontal axis spinning. It consists of a small magnetic spinning top and a mathematically calculated magnetic array. The opposing magnetic polarity of the spinning top to the magnet array provides the basic ‘lift’ against gravity. The interaction of these magnetic fields creates a specific ‘trap’ and the principle of the conservation of angular momentum (precession) ‘holds’ the spinning top in position, giving the entertaining sight of the object floating in mid-air. This method has achieved horizontal spinning of an object for the first time in a passive system without using an electromagnetic drive.

The science of Halitron – Precession

Precession is a universal phenomenon. Even our Earth is precessing, taking 26,000 years for the celestial pole to complete the circle! All spinning bodies in our Universe demonstrate the science of precession, whether very large galaxies or tiny protons. The precession of a spinning object is at first hardly visible, but as the object slows and the precession amplitude increases, the circles grow. The precession frequency decreases until just before the spinning object escapes when you can actually see the circles form.

The spinning top is ‘trapped’ by two separate arrangements of magnets, a micro-trap and a macro-trap working together to suspend the spinning top. The Halitron relies on ‘conservation of energy’ and the ‘conservation of angular momentum’ to keep it going.

The challenges of creating a levitation device

Without any stability or restraint from flipping, two magnets placed in repulsion will simply flip over so that they attract rather than repel. As demonstrated by the Halitron, and other levitation devices, this is counteracted by gyroscopic motion.

The parameter for successful levitation is incredibly small. There are several aspects that need to be finely tuned to achieve the effect, these include the strength of the base magnets, the strength of the magnets in the levitation object, the weight of the levitating object and the gyroscopic action. An excellent article in the American Journal of Physics by Simon, Heflinger and Ridgeway – Spin stabilized magnetic levitation studies the physics behind such levitation devices.

The Halitron and particle physics

The Halitron is a magnetic particle trap, one that magnetically traps the trillions of atoms making up the spinning top. In the particle physics being conducted at world famous laboratories particle traps are one of the most important activities. In some experiments single particles are trapped. The ALPHA experiment at CERN is trapping anti-protons and positrons (anti-electrons) to generate the first ever trapped atoms of anti-matter. Part of the trapping is magnetic. ALPHA and Halitron have one feature in common: the energy of the trapped particles or of the spinning top must not be too high.

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