I ordered some bismuth the other night (just another day at the Hogan house).
Bismuth is element 83 on the periodic table, and it has some very interesting properties.
- It has a higher atomic mass than lead, but it is actually lighter than lead. This is due to the fact that the atoms do not pack in as tightly making the overall structure less dense.
- The melting point of bismuth is only 520 degrees F.
- If cooled properly, it forms crystals.
- Bismuth is diamagnetic!
All materials are diamagnetic (repelled by magnets), but this force is usually much too small to be detected. Bismuth has one of the stronger diamagnetic forces, although this is still weak compared to ferromagnetism.
I tried to make bismuth crystals and found limited success. I now realize that I need to refine my technique and order more bismuth if I want to try again. I will put a couple of pictures of my crystals in our next weekly newsletter.
While I was researching how to make the crystals, I found a number of sites that told you how to use a combination of permanent magnets and bismuth to levitate another magnet. If you are anything like me, being able to levitate something is a lifelong dream. (Now if only we could make: tractor beams, transporters, light sabers, …) I never thought I would be able to make a device that would levitate something, even if it is only a small magnet.
To build this contraption, you will need some super strong magnets. I used a cylindrical one and 2 cubes. These are very strong magnets! Be careful. The magnets will jump together before you expect and pinch your skin – badly. When the 2 cubes arrived, they had a white spacer in between them. I tried to pull them apart, and for a moment, I thought they were glued together. Then I realized I could spin them, but I still could not pull them apart.
You do not have to build a structure exactly like the one I made. You simply need something sturdy that will support 2 pieces of bismuth (with a small space) and your magnets. You want the top piece of bismuth and the magnets to be adjustable so that you can fine tune your device.
In my design, you can turn the bolt to adjust the height of the magnets. This is key because it is a sensitive adjustment. You need to be able to move the magnets very slowly so that you achieve the right balance of forces.
Basically, the magnets pull up, and the bismuth and gravity pushes down. When the distances are all set properly, the forces balance and your magnet levitates!
I understood this basic idea, but I was still very excited when it actually worked. The thing that surprised me the most was how stable the levitating magnet is. I thought if I could make this work, you would have to carefully place the levitating magnet and make sure no one bumped the table. However, you can push it up, down, or sideways and it just returns to its original spot. I believe the bismuth creates eddies in the magnetic field and that is what creates this awesome stability.
If you give it a good spin, the magnet will keep going for a long time. The only thing slowing it down is the air resistance. The circular magnet will actually spin longer than the square one since it does not have corners pushing through the air, but the square one is easier to spin and looks cooler.
I hope that you enjoyed the videos, but you really need to make your own and play with it in person (I mean conduct serious research) in order to truly appreciate this.
I love exploring the world the God gave us and all of its diverse elements. The Lord gave us such a diverse array of elements that each have their own properties and uses. (Bismuth is used in Pepto Bismol. It is actually a fairly large percentage of that pink stuff that settles your stomach).
This is also a great example of believing in something that you can not see. I can’t see the magnetic forces that levitate this little block of metal, but I know they are there because I see the effects of the forces. I can’t see God, but I know He is there because I see the effects of His power.
Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.