Researchers at Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan have managed to influence the direction of magnetically levitated disks using nothing more than light. In a recent study, the team disclosed how the motion of a graphite disk could be controlled using a laser beam. Changing the temperature of the disk using the laser influences how it reacts to a magnetic field — raising the temperature, for instance, will drop the disk’s levitation height. Moving the laser to the edges of the disk rather than the center weakens the magnetic repulsion too, causing the graphite to move in the same direction as the source.
The same results can also be achieved using sunlight. Researchers discovered that solar energy can cause the graphite disk to spin at up to 200 RPM after stacking it on cylindrical-shaped magnets. The discovery could potentially change the way that magnetically levitated vehicles are controlled, but other uses could include optically driven turbines and solar energy conversion systems.