Grand Challenge - Lieberman's Light Bulb

Project Type: Propulsion and Levitation

Project Information

Project Description:

In this Grand Challenge, the Team is to design, build and display a version of Jeff Lieberman’s floating Light Bulb art.  The light bulb floats because it contains magnets that are attracted to a hidden pulsed coil mounted above.  The coil provides just enough pull to overcome gravity and its position is stabilized by feedback from two Hall-effect sensors.  The light bulb is illuminated by LEDs mounted inside a fake light bulb, along with magnets and a coil that receives wireless power from below.  The transmitter coil, mounted in the base, is resonantly coupled to the coil in the bulb and thereby sends wireless power over the distances to the floating bulb.  Wireless power was first proposed by Nikola Tesla,, and later developed by students at MIT for charging battery-operated devices,

Level of Difficulty: High


coupled resonance, wireless power transfer, feedback control, Hall-effect sensor


Starter kit for stabilized levitation based on Hall-effect sensors;

Images inside Jeff Lieberman’s machine;

Lieberman’s original design and comments;

Team Roles

Electrical Engineer (4) – The Electrical Engineers on the project are responsible for the design, development and construction of the levitation coil and power system plus the resonant coils for wireless power transmission and reception.  These independent systems will be developed in small-scale tests before designing the full-scale machine.  Electrical Engineers will work closely with the Control System Engineers to integrate bulb position information into the levitation power controls.

Mechanical Engineer (2) – The Mechanical Engineers on the project are responsible for the construction of the floating light bulb and the standing display cabinet that houses the levitation, wireless power, and control system electronics.  Additionally, the Mechanical Engineers are responsible for cooling the hidden equipment by silent methods.  The MEs must work closely with the other engineers and Multimedia Artist to achieve a fascinating display that is easily transportable.

Control System Engineers (2) – The Control System Engineers are responsible for developing a sensing system that detects the position of the light bulb but remains immune to magnetic interference from the levitation and wireless power networks.  Signals from the position sensor are fed back to the levitation power modulator to hold the bulb motionless at a fixed position in space.

Designer (2) – Designers on the project will work closely with the engineers to assure the entire assembly is tightly integrated and fully portable.  Additionally, Designers validate sub-system designs via CAD illustrations, supervise component manufacturing, and resolve operational problems that require modifications.

Journalist (1) – The Journalist documents the project’s progress on the website, communicates with the local media, and is responsible for a final report to the principal sponsors and Power Mountain Engineering.  The Journalist also works closely with the Multimedia Artist to provide video and graphic art displays for demonstrations that explain the project to the public.  The whole project is your project.

Multimedia Artist (1) – In addition to the normal team responsibilities of maintaining the project’s progress on the website and presence on social media, the Multimedia Artist will also design, organize, and host a public showing of the Light Bulb exhibit.

Business Manager (1) – The Business Manager is responsible for reporting the project’s progress against a predetermined schedule, determines critical path items to completion, and tracks project spending to assure that costs remain within a fixed budget.  The Manager works with all team members to identify problems early and resolve them quickly.  The whole project is your project.


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