Magnetic Levitation and Ring Launcher

Project Type: Propulsion and Levitation

Project Information

Project Description:

Magnetic LevitationThe task is to design and build an electromagnetic device similar to Elihu Thomson’s Jumping Ring experiment.  The device will illustrate the basic physics and engineering behind magnetic levitation, induction heating, power transmission, transformers, induction motors, maglev trains, and electrical resonance.  The machine will be configured for two modes of operation: In the vertical mode, the machine will illustrate how magnetic induction produces electrical forces that lift heavy objects.  In the launcher mode, the machine is configured to shoot aluminum or copper rings at a 45° angle over long distances.  Further experiments with the launcher will illustrate how liquid nitrogen affects the launch distance.  Other experiments will show how long sections of slotted pipe add to a vertical launch distance.

Level of Difficulty: Medium


Electromagnetic induction, Faraday’s Law, Lenz’s Law, inductance, resistance, resonance, magnetic flux density, magnetic field intensity, magnetic permeability


“Induction Ring Launcher,” by V. Matos, L. Silva, and E. J. Sena, National Robotics Festival, Portugal, 2006 (Hands-on Science Network, 2008), ISBN 978-989-95336-2-2

Faraday’s Law;  (Brightstorm)

Team Roles

Electrical Engineer (3) – Electrical Engineers on the project are responsible for the design and construction of the machine’s drive coil.  The coil is developed from an overall system design that includes performance estimates and mechanical considerations.  Other electrical networks and safety systems will be done by the Electrical Engineers.  For example, the drive-coil switch could be solid state with phase control to assure maximum launch distance from an AC power source.

Mechanical Engineer (3) – Mechanical Engineers on the project are responsible for the electromagnetic core design and ring selection.  The core is developed from an overall system design that takes into account coil interface, coupling efficiency, and magnetic saturation.  Additionally, the Mechanical Engineers assure that the machine can be easily configured for demonstrations and safely disassembled for transport.  Core and coil heating are Mechanical Engineering issues to be considered and solved.

Physicist (2) – Physicists on the project are responsible for modeling the machine’s electromagnetic field structure using a finite-element code.  Results of the simulation will be compared with small test coils to measure the vertical and radial magnetic field components at various locations without a ring.  Calculations and measurements of the magnetic field will be used to estimate the magnitude of the current flowing in floating ring.

Designer (2) – Designers on the project are responsible for combining the conflicting machine requirements into a single design that accomplishes the machine’s purpose.  Additionally, Designers validate the system assembly with CAD illustrations, supervise all 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) – The Artist also documents the project’s progress on the website and works with the Journalist to maintain the project’s presence on social media.  Additionally, the Artist designs and organizes all public relations events to assure spectator safety and to enhance the community’s awareness of science and technology.  The whole project is your project.

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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