The High Tech Society

Floating Plant Pots? The Science Behind Making Things Levitate


Floating Plant Pots? The Science Behind Making Things Levitate

Flyte and Lyfe are two floating technologies including a light bulb and a plant pot (that you can put a plant in) that literally float in mid-air, a few inches off of their polished wooden bases. At an average of $199 each, they aren’t cheap, but they do allow you to wow your friends and neighbors, and maybe get a little bit more zen out of your home.

The plant pots, which are called Lyfe Planters, feature geometric designs, an oak base, and come in a variety of different sizes. They also quite literally look like magic.

But, how do these floating masterpieces work? It’s actually quite simple and you can do it yourself if you can find strong enough magnets.

Magnetic Levitation

Most of us have heard words like maglev and magnetic levitation, but most of us haven’t really seen it in action. Magnetic levitation is the process of turning two magnets towards each other, so that their north poles are facing each other. If you ever had a magnetic experiment in school, you probably know that magnetic north poles repel each other. That’s the basic science behind technologies like the Nike Hoverboard, and the Lyfe magnetic planter, which literally levitates plants in mid-air.

But, before you get over excited thinking that a floating plant pot is in your near future, stop for a moment. Most magnets aren’t strong enough to hold plants and light bulbs, especially not when you water the plant.

What is strong enough is electromagnets. These magnets are created using a soft metal core with electricity passing through it, which makes them stronger, and means that they will last as long as you have electricity.

However, you can still work to levitate small objects with a lighter weight, if you buy the right magnets.

Creating Your Own Mag-Lev Project

If you arrange four magnets on a table with their north poles facing up, and arrange them an equal distance away from each of your other magnets, and then attach two magnets to another device with the north poles facing down, you will be able to create levitation. The video includes a simple experiment involving a pencil. You can levitate heavier objects if you get stronger magnets. You can also cover your magnets with thin wood or paper to create a more dramatic effect. Just remember that the thicker the layers between the magnets, the lower the level of magnetism.

Want to try this out? Most hardware stores have some magnets in stock. You can also go online to order magnets more cheaply. Neodymium is currently the strongest non electr-magnet that you can buy. You’ll also want to look for a high-grade magnet. The higher the number, the stronger the magnet. Look for N52 if you want to try to levitate anything heavy.

How much will your experiment be able to support? That depends on a few factors including your magnets, their spacing, how many you use, and the thickness of the materials between your magnets and the items.

Or, if you don’t feel like tinkering around with magnets, the Lyfe and the Flyte are still on sale in the USA and Europe.