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Following a month of teasers, rumors, and speculation, Lexus has unveiled a fascinating pet project to the world: a real, working hoverboard. It doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set by Back to the Future, but it’s an amazing piece of gear nonetheless.
Here’s a video of the board in action:
How The Lexus Hoverboard Works
We should start by saying that video is a little misleading: it looks like the hoverboard is gliding over a typical cement skateboard park, but nothing could be further from the truth. What you can’t see in the video are the powerful magnets hidden beneath the surface — crucial for the board to work at all.
Still – magnets or no magnets – it is a hoverboard.
Here’s how it works: The technology relies on a special quantum effect that occurs between superconductors and magnets, which allow for stable levitation of heavy objects. The effect is known as “quantum locking.” Remember the Hendo hoverboard? The technology is similar, but Lexus opted to use a superconductor instead of the oscillating magnetic field that the Hendo uses. According to Eric Palm, the Deputy Lab Director at FSU’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
“Instead you have something called the Meissner effect, which essentially says that when you take a magnetic field near the superconductor, it induces current in that superconductor, and creates essentially an image magnetic field on the other side of the superconductor […] You create current, but since it’s a superconductor, the currents don’t die away. So you don’t need oscillating magnetic fields. You can have a magnet that levitates above a superconductor or vice versa, a superconductor that levitates above a magnet.”
Here’s a video to help you visualize that:
Did you notice the cool-looking steam flowing off the sides of the hoverboard? It’s not just a cosmetic effect — it’s liquid nitrogen, which cools the superconductors to -321 degrees Fahrenheit. When the board runs out of liquid nitrogen, the superconductors heat up and it stops hovering.
But that’s no big deal, Palm says, because liquid nitrogen is created as a byproduct of the steel industry — it’s extremely inexpensive.
So, in the most basic terms, the Lexus hoverboard works because the superconductors in the board repel the magnets in the ground with a force strong enough to lift the board and its rider.
Why Did Lexus Build A Hoverboard?
Why did an automotive company choose to build a hoverboard?
It’s not what you might think: Lexus has no intention of mass-producing hoverboards and selling them. In fact, the company started the project with an entirely different agenda.
According to Lexus spokesperson Maurice Durand, all the hoverboard has ever been is part of a marketing campaign for a yet-to-be-announced car. Seriously — the company partnered with outside agencies to build this thing so they could use it in an ad campaign. Here’s what Durand told Wired:
“Let’s be frank, it’s not novel […] There are other hoverboards. To a degree, we weren’t expecting [this reaction].”
So why is everyone so interested in a hoverboard that was designed specifically to appear in an ad? Perhaps it’s for that very reason: Lexus planned on showing this thing to the world, so design was a top priority. As far as hoverboards go, this one is gorgeous. And they even went beyond the board itself, showcasing it over what appeared to be normal concrete, which made it seem more advanced and more accessible than anything we’ve seen before. There’s also the “cool” factor: a hoverboard is a hoverboard, and hoverboards are cool. Bonus points when it’s made by a reputable manufacturer.
What do you think about the Lexus hoverboard? Would you ride it if you had the chance? Can you think of any other uses for this technology? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!