How that Lexus hoverboard actually works

According to Lexus, its hoverboard relies on superconductors and magnets, which combine to repel the force of gravity and lift an object—like, say, a fancy skateboard and its rider—above the ground.

That may sound familiar to anyone who recalls the Hendo hoverboard, which debuted as a Kickstarter last fall. You can read about the physics behind the Hendo in great depth here, but the key difference between it and the Lexus project is that Lexus opted for a superconductor—which creates a different kind of magnetic field—instead of a plain ol’ conductor.

“With a superconductor you don’t need to have an oscillating magnetic field [like Hendo’s],” explains Eric Palm, Deputy Laboratory Director at FSU’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. “Instead you have something called the Meissner effect, which essentially says that when you take a magnetic field near the superconductor, it induces current in that superconductor, and creates essentially an image magnetic field on the other side of the superconductor. You create current, but since it’s a superconductor, the currents don’t die away. So you don’t need oscillating magnetic fields. You can have a magnet that levitates above a superconductor or vice versa, a superconductor that levitates above a magnet.”