Flying skateboards à la “Back to the Future”

the hoverboard flies over a car.

Sometimes the distinction between science fiction and science fact becomes blurred. Things get particularly interesting when science is able to turn science fiction into reality. Anyone who has seen the legendary “Back to the Future” trilogy will be familiar with the hoverboard. This levitating skateboard now exists for real: commissioned by the Japanese auto manufacturer Lexus, researchers at the evico company in Dresden designed it in collaboration with colleagues from the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research (IFW).

Pushing the boundaries of the possible

“Embarking on this project, we set out to push the boundaries of technology, design and innovation to make the impossible possible. With this project we call ‘SLIDE’, we collaborated with partners who share our passion for creating enjoyment out of motion”, explained Mark Templin, Lexus International’s executive vice president.

A magnetic field does the trick

the hoverboard floats over a skate track

The board functions by means of magnetic levitation, the precise area in which the two partners from Germany specialize. Two elements made of superconductive material are incorporated into the board. Liquid nitrogen is used to cool them to a temperature of -197 degrees Celsius. These superconductors generate a magnetic field on which the hoverboard can float above magnets set into a track. “The magnetic field from the track is effectively ‘frozen’ into the superconductors in the board, maintaining the distance between the board and the track – essentially keeping the board hovering. The force is strong enough to allow to stand and even jump on the board”, explains evico CEO Dr Oliver de Haas.

New everyday means of transport?

One Lexus video even shows a skater flying over a car. The board will not be going on sale for the time being, however. “It was primarily developed as a marketing tool”, explains Dr Lars Kühn, head of R&D at evico. The hoverboard could in any case only be used as an everyday means of transport if all roads were fitted with magnetic tracks. This is not in fact so unlikely – after all, the Transrapid maglev train also functions according to the same principle.

Two specialists in magnetic levitation

evico GmbH is a spin-off from the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research (IFW) in Dresden. The company and the research institution specialize in magnetic levitation technology. At evico, new materials and processes are researched and industrially implemented.

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