As a child you may have loved to play with magnets. Remember sliding a magnet under the table to make an object move as part of a “magic” trick or spending hours building dinosaurs using magnets of different shapes? Well, we have come a long way since then. Scientists, designers and engineers who may have started out just playing with magnets themselves are now dreaming up some sci-fi ways of how magnets could shape our future. Here are just a few of the dreams they hope to bring to reality:
- Floating Cities: An article in Popular Mechanics describes a concept created by Chinese architect, Wei Zhao, called Heaven and Earth. In this scenario an island is magnetically levitated above the earth. This platform would contain forests, mountains and cities, and would rotate in such a way that it would generate its own energy.
- Super High-Speed Rail Transportation: Already overseas, the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Project is working to change the face of transportation in America. While regular high-speed trains can travel at speeds up to 180 miles per hour, the friction and heat they generate is not efficient. Maglev trains can travel over 300 miles per hour, without any friction and far lower costs. The farthest-out estimates have speeds that could reach thousands of miles per hour. The U.S. version, with its anticipated average speeds of only 269 mph between rural and urban areas, could significantly reduce traffic on the heavily-congested highways between Anaheim and Las Vegas. Already in an advanced stage of development, this project is considered to be “shovel ready.”
- Oil Spill Cleanup: Ship & Bunker reports that MIT researchers may have developed a cost-efficient way of separating water and oil using magnets. Spurred by the somewhat limited methods available to clean up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a magnetic approach could make the process faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective.
- Handheld MRI Scanners: The MRI is an important diagnostic tool in modern healthcare, but its main drawback is its size. The huge superconducting magnets necessary to collect a precise picture require large, expensive and non-portable structures. Now POPSCI says that German researchers are working on a portable magnet that could dramatically shrink NMR devices and alter the future of medical science. The potential for handheld devices could range from identifying blood clots and cancer proteins in a doctor’s office to analyzing artifacts at archaeological digs.
- Flying Cars: We have all been dreaming of this possibility since we watched George Jetson zoom around in a flying car on our television screens. Popular Mechanics says this possibility may be getting closer. Since 2009 NASA has been working with the creators of SkyTran on the technology which suspends private pods, or future “cars,” from elevated guideways. Freeing up congestion on the roads and eliminating the need for oil, these flying cars might be the transportation vehicle of the future.
Magnets can be used for so many more purposes than just holding notes on our refrigerators. With boldness, daring, insight and creativity today’s dreamers and innovators are coming up with ways to use magnets that could very well shape the way we work, travel, and live in the not-too-distant future. And to think it could all have started with a childhood fascination with drawing Wooly Willy!
This article was brought to you by the people at www.magnets.com. Magnets.com, a custom refrigerator magnet manufacturer, has been working with material that has the wonderful property of magnetism since 1997. Connect with Magnets.com on Google+ and Twitter.