Magnetic levitation shows promise for manufacturing

nylon screw being magnetically levitated

A nylon screw and other objects can be rotated and reoriented when placed in a magnetic liquid and manipulated with two external magnets.

George M. Whitesides Group, Harvard/YouTube

Suspending soft, sticky or fragile objects between magnets may be a way to rotate and position them in 3-D space without needing to touch them.

Manually manipulating these kinds of objects can damage them. But by suspending them between magnets, a process called magnetic levitation, scientists can control the orientation of the objects. The results, published August 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that magnetic levitation could be used in the self-assembly of materials, the assembly of robots and in manufacturing.

video of the magnetic levitation experiment is available on YouTube.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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