Liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductor tech miniaturized to appear in video
After weeks of speculation, technobabble and Googlings of maglev technology, Lexus finally showed off its apparently real and working hoverboard in a video that was too slick by half. Lexus revealed the board in a skate park in Barcelona, Spain, among millennial influentials, influential millennials, and other cool people shown standing on the board, giving each other high fives, laughing, and doing other things cool millennials do in videos designed to reach a certain demographic.
And the hoverboard called SLIDE actually floated when someone stood on it on above a surface that was made to look like concrete, and was even kind enough to move some people around, occasionally inflicting what looked to be pretty serious impacts to people’s backsides.
The technical effort took 18 months with Lexus working with a team of scientists from IFW Dresden and evico GmbH, who have experience in magnetic levitation technology.
Lexus SLIDE in operation
If the video is any indication, the hoverboard appears to be a somewhat difficult thing to control, as one would expect. Lexus invited professional skateboarder Ross McGouran to try it out and even he had a few awkward moments on the board, which seems to be far more prone to side movement than your regular 20th century skateboard.
“I’ve spent 20 years skateboarding, but without friction it feels like I’ve had to learn a whole new skill, particularly in the stance and balance in order to ride the hoverboard. It’s a whole new experience,” said McGouran.
How does it work? The board achieves magnetic levivation by using liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors chilled to -321 degrees Fahreinheit — that’s the nitrogen vapor coming out of the board — and floats on a track that incorporates permanent magnets.
“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,” explained Dr. Oliver de Haas, evico CEO, one of Lexus’ partners on the project. “This force is strong enough to allow the rider to stand and even jump on the board.”
Lexus SLIDE hoverboard
The question that seemed to be answered here was: given enough time and money, magnetic levitation tech can be miniaturized to enable a hoverboard to operate for about 10 minutes at a time above a surface that has a lot of metal underneath, before it has to be recharged with liquid nitrogen. It’s not quite the “Back to the Future” tech that we were promised by 2015 as taxpayers who went to see a movie in the Reagan ’80s … but it’s close enough.
When will you be able to buy one to use in your driveway paved over with thin layer of concrete? Lexus isn’t planning to sell SLIDE commercially (this probably has something to do with the safety issues relating to liquid nitrogen) so it’ll continue making appearances in videos with hip music and hip people.
One pressing question lingers: did being in proximity to that skatepark and that board erase everyone’s credit cards and SIM cards?