Jeremiah Hansen stuns a group of scientists with the diamagnetic levitation of pyrolytic graphite over a set of heavy-duty neodymium magnets. While the principles underlying diamagnetic levitation are well-understood, it’s rare to see such a great example of this force in action because the forces themselves are typically so weak.

Diamagnetism is a counterpart to the more familiar ferromagnetic forces that we commonly see in everyday electrical appliances. A ferromagnetic material like iron is attracted to a magnet, but a diamagnetic material like pyrolytic graphite actually experiences a repulsion from the same field.

The underlying physical principles are textbook physics, but the diamagnetic repulsion in most materials is weak enough that levitation would require gigantic magnets to operate. However, by using a rare material like pyrolytic graphite, Hansen was able to generate enough repulsion to actually suspend the graphite in the relatively weak magnetic field generated by a block of neodymium magnets.

Hansen’s presentation at STAIF also included an in-depth overview of his concept for creating an artificial gravitational field on space-craft by generating diamagnetic-effects in the occupant’s bodies to keep them firmly planted on the deck.