# ELECTROMAGNETIC LEVITATION THESIS

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1 ELECTROMAGNETIC LEVITATION THESIS 2005 COMPILED BY: LANCE WILLIAMS

2 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to acknowledge the help and support of Professor J. Greene in the formation and development of this thesis. I would also like to acknowledge my friends and fellow students for their willingness to assist with experiments and in lending advice. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge Bill Beaty for his excellent web site. It is very well organized and he provides several useful links for anyone interested in magnetic levitation. I would highly recommend his website to anyone interested in this fascinating topic.

3 TERMS OF REFERENCE The aim of this thesis was to investigate magnetic levitation and to design a working system capable of levitating an object from below. The system should be able to levitate an object from below, clear of an array of electromagnets without any form of support. There shouldn t be any object, structure or device assisting in levitation, on the same level of elevation as the levitating object. The control and circuit complexities should be investigated and recommendations for improving the designed system should be made.

4 SUMMARY Magnetic levitation is the process of levitating an object by exploiting magnetic fields. If the magnetic force of attraction is used, it is known as magnetic suspension. If magnetic repulsion is used, it is known as magnetic levitation. In the past, magnetic levitation was attempted by using permanent magnets. Earnshaw s theorem however, proves that this is mathematically impossible. There exists no arrangement of static magnets of charges that can stably levitate an object. There are however means of circumventing this theorem by altering its basic assumptions. The following conditions are exceptions to Earnshaw s theorem: Diamagnetism: occurs in materials which have a relative permeability less than one. The result is that is eddy currents are induced in a diamagnetic material, it will repel magnetic flux. The Meissner Effect: occurs in superconductors. Superconductors have zero internal resistance. As such induced currents tend to persist, and as a result the magnetic field they cause will persist as well. Oscillation: when an A current is passed through an electromagnet, it behaves like a diamagnetic material. Rotation: employed by the Levitron, it uses gyroscopic motion to overcome levitation instability. Feedback: used in conjunction with electromagnets to dynamically adjust magnetic flux in order to maintain levitation. Each of the above conditions provides solutions to the problem of magnetic levitation. The focus of this thesis is the feedback technique. Feedback with electromagnets can be divided into magnetic suspension and levitation. Magnetic suspension works via the force of attraction between an electromagnet and some object. If the object gets too close to the electromagnet, the current in

5 the electromagnet must be reduced. If the object gets too far, the current to the electromagnet must be increased. Thus the information which must be sensed is the position of the levitating object. The position can then be used to determine how much current the electromagnet must receive. To prevent oscillations however, the rate of change of position must used as well. The position information can easily be differentiated to acquire the speed information required. Electromagnetic levitation works via the magnetic force of repulsion. Using repulsion though makes a much more difficult control problem. The levitating object is now able to move in any direction, meaning that the control problem has shifted from one dimension to three. There is much interest in levitation due to its possible applications in high speed transport technology. These applications can be broadly referred to as MagLev, which stands for magnetic levitation. A system which more closely resembles the work done in this thesis project is the MagLev cradle. The MagLev cradle is a system designed by Bill Beaty. It is able to levitate a small rod magnet for a few seconds at a time. This system suffers from serious instability. As such levitation can only be maintained for a few seconds. The MagLev cradle utilizes an arrangement of up to 12 electromagnets and their control circuits in a v configuration to levitate a bar magnet. The MagLev cradle uses rapid switching circuits to control current to the electromagnets. If the bar magnet falls too close to the electromagnet, the circuit switches on, thus applying more repelling force. If the bar magnet rises too high above the electromagnet, it turns off, thus removing the repelling force. The system developed for this thesis uses the position sensing technique employed by the magnetic cradle. Hall Effect sensors are placed on each of the electromagnets in the system. Each electromagnet and its current control circuitry operates as an independent system to levitate part of a bar magnet. The Hall effect sensor is a device that senses magnetic flux. It is also capable of detecting the magnetic flux orientation. It is placed on an electromagnet to sense

6 the presence of the bar magnet we wish to levitate. The circuitry is configured such that is magnetic flux is detected; the system will energize the electromagnet in order to make the net magnetic flux with the hall effect sensor zero. Therefore this system electronically simulates the Meissner effect by repelling both north and south poles of a magnet. Experiments were also done to investigate various configurations of electromagnets in order to achieve stable magnetic levitation. This current control circuit for the electromagnets used an opamp summer circuit and a power amplification stage (sink/source transistor circuit). Initial tests revealed that besides position sensing, speed information was required as well. This was achieved by adding a phase lead circuit, which negated the phase lag caused by the electromagnet (an inductive load) and the control circuitry. Different configurations of electromagnets were used to attempt to levitate a bar magnet. The main problem that was soon identified was that of keeping the levitating bar magnet in the area above the electromagnets. Despite moving the electromagnets closer and further apart, the bar magnet could not be effectively trapped above the electromagnets. The bar magnet has a tendency to slide off the ends, as the end magnets cannot react quickly enough to movements in the bar magnet. Thus current system lacks the control circuitry required to achieve stable electromagnetic levitation. At present, pairs of electromagnets can effectively levitate part of a bar magnet which is supported at one end. If the necessary control circuit required to effectively hold the levitating bar magnet in position above the electromagnet can be designed, then a working system can be quickly realised.

7 TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS... 2 TERMS OF REFERENCE... 3 SUMMARY... 4 TABLE OF CONTENTS... 7 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS... 9 SYMBOLS INTRODUCTION TO MAGNETIC LEVITATION THE EARNSHAW THEOREM QUANTUM THEORY ROTATION DIAMAGNETISM MEISSNER EFFECT FEEDBACK SYSTEMS OSCILLATION THE LEVITRON THE MEISSNER EFFECT AND SUPERCONDUCTORS ELECTROMAGNETIC MAGNETIC SUSPENSION ELECTROMAGNETIC LEVITATION MAGLEV DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS EXISTING SOLUTIONS THE MAGLEV CRADLE OPERATION SYSTEM PROBLEMS ELECTROMAGNETIC LEVITATION SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM OVERVIEW SYSTEM COMPONENT OVERVIEWS ELECTROMAGNETS RATIOMETRIC LINEAR HALL EFFECT SENSORS ELECTROMAGNET CURRENT DRIVE CIRCUIT INITIAL ELECTROMAGNETIC REPULSION TEST PARTIAL ELECTROMAGNETIC LEVITATION TEST FULL ELECTROMAGNETIC LEVITATION TESTS MAGNETIC LEVITATION TESTS (4 ELECTROMAGNETS)... 38

8 7.6.2 MAGNETIC LEVITATION TESTS (5 ELECTROMAGNETS) MAGNETIC LEVITATION TESTS (6 ELECTROMAGNETS) FINDINGS ELECTROMAGNET CURRENT CONTROL CIRCUITS TEST BED STRUCTURE PHYSICAL ARRANGEMENTS OF ELECTROMAGNETS CONTROL ASPECTS LEVEL OF OPERATION RECOMMENDATIONS CURRENT CONTROL CIRCUITRY ELECTROMAGNETS CONTROL THEORY ASPECTS REFERENCES BIBLIOGRAPHY... 54

9 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Fig1: The Levitron top levitating above its permanent magnet base. Fig2: A magnet levitating above a superconductor Fig3: Diagram showing the basic control arrangement of a magnetic suspension system. Fig4: Diagram showing the physical model of a magnetic suspension system. Fig5: Diagram showing a simple phase lead circuit Fig6: Picture showing a magnetic suspension system in action. Fig7: Diagram showing a simplified arrangement of electromagnets to levitate a train. Fig8: Diagram showing the physical setup of the MagLev cradle. Fig9: A diagram showing a systems view of a magnetic levitation device. Fig10: Shows a possible physical arrangement for a magnetic levitation system. Fig11: Shows the physical dimensions of the electromagnets used. Fig12: Pictorial representation a Ratiometric Hall Effect Sensor Fig13: Circuit diagram of a one opamp current control circuit Fig14: Circuit diagram of a current control circuit with the addition of phase lead. Fig15: Circuit diagram of a current control circuit using two opamps. Fig16: Circuit diagram of a two opamp current control circuit with the addition of a transistor stage gain limiting resistor. Fig17: Diagram showing the physical layout of the magnetic repulsion tests. Fig18: Circuit diagram of the two opamp current control circuit with the addition of phase lead. Fig19: Diagram showing the physical layout of the partial magnetic levitation tests. Fig20: Diagram showing sensor positioning modifications Fig21: Diagram showing the physical layout of the 4 electromagnet full levitation test. Fig22: Diagram showing the physical layout of the 5-electromagnet magnetic levitation tests. Fig23: Physical layout of the 6 electromagnet magnetic levitation tests. (1 st configuration) Fig24: Physical layout of the 6 electromagnet magnetic levitation tests. (2 nd configuration)

10 SYMBOLS mv/g: millivolts per Gauss K: Kelvin C: capacitance (farads) A: area of capacitor plates (m 2 ) ε 0: permittivity of free space ε r : relative permeability

11 1. INTRODUCTION TO MAGNETIC LEVITATION Magnetic levitation is the process of levitating an object by exploiting magnetic fields. In other words, it is overcoming the gravitational force on an object by applying a counteracting magnetic field. Either the magnetic force of repulsion or attraction can be used. In the case of magnetic attraction, the experiment is known as magnetic suspension. Using magnetic repulsion, it becomes magnetic levitation. In the past, magnetic levitation was attempted by using permanent magnets. Attempts were made to find the correct arrangement of permanent magnets to levitate another smaller magnet, or to suspend a magnet or some other object made of a ferrous material. It was however, mathematically proven by Earnshaw that a static arrangement of permanent magnets or charges could not stably magnetically levitate an object Apart from permanent magnets, other ways to produce magnetic fields can also be used to perform levitation. One of these is an electrodynamic system, which exploits Lenz s law. When a magnet is moving relative to a conductor in close proximity, a current is induced within the conductor. This induced current will cause an opposing magnetic field. This opposing magnetic field can be used to levitate a magnet. This means of overcoming the restrictions identified by Earnshaw is referred to as oscillation. Electrodynamic magnetic levitation also results from an effect observed in superconductors. This effect was observed by Meissner and is known as the Meissner effect. This is a special case of diamagnetism. This thesis will mainly deal with electromagnetic levitation using feedback techniques to attain stable levitation of a bar magnet.

12 2. THE EARNSHAW THEOREM Earnshaw s theorem basically proves that a static magnet cannot be levitated by any arrangement of permanent magnets or charges. This can be simply proved as follows: The static force as a function of position F(x) acting on any body in vacuum due to gravitation, electrostatic and magnetostatic fields will always be divergenceless. divf = 0. At a point of equilibrium the force is zero. If the equilibrium is stable the force must point in towards the point of equilibrium on some small sphere around the point. However, by Gauss' theorem, s F(x).dS = v divf. dv The integral of the radial component of the force over the surface must be equal to the integral of the divergence of the force over the volume inside which is zero. (Philip Gibbs and Andre Geim, March 1997) This theorem though makes certain assumptions. Thus the result can be circumvented under certain conditions. The exceptions to Earnshaw s theorem are as follows: 2.1 QUANTUM THEORY Firstly this theorem only takes into account classical physics and not quantum mechanics. At the atomic level there is a type of levitation occurring through forces of repulsion between particles. This effect is so small however, that it is not generally considered as magnetic levitation.

13 2.2 ROTATION This property is used in the patented magnetic levitation display called the Levitron. The Levitron uses an arrangement of static permanent magnets to levitate a smaller magnet. The system overcomes the instability described in Earnshaw s theorem by rotating the levitating magnet at high speed. 2.3 DIAMAGNETISM Earnshaw s theorem doesn t apply to diamagnetic materials, because they have a relative permeability less than one. This means that they don t behave like regular magnets, as they will tend to repel any magnetic flux. 2.4 MEISSNER EFFECT A special case of diamagnetism is observed in conductors cooled to below their critical temperature (typically close to 0 K). Below this temperature, they become superconductors, with an internal resistance of zero. They attain a relative permeability of zero, making them the perfect diamagnetic material. This allows them to maintain their repelling magnetic field as long as a foreign source of magnetic flux is present. 2.5 FEEDBACK SYSTEMS The position of the levitating magnet can be sensed and used to control the field strength of an electromagnet. Thus the tendency for instability can be removed by constantly correcting the magnetic field strength of the electromagnets to keep a permanent magnet levitated.

14 2.6 OSCILLATION Passing an alternating current through an electromagnet causes eddy currents to flow within its core. These currents according to Lenz s law will flow such that they repel a nearby magnetic field. Thus, it causes the electromagnet to behave like a diamagnetic material. Ref: Philip Gibbs and Andre Geim, magnetic levitation., March [Online] (October, 2005)

15 3. THE LEVITRON The Levitron is a commercial toy that was invented by Roy Harrigan. It is a patented device that performs magnetic levitation with permanent magnets. It overcomes the limitation set by Earnshaw s theorem through rotation. The base consists of a carefully arranged set of permanent magnets. The object that is levitated is a circular permanent magnet inside a spinning top shape. Harrigan found that the instability described by Earnshaw could be overcome by having the levitating magnet spin at high speed. This gyroscopic motion provides a simple solution to the spatial instability problem defined by Earnshaw. Harrigan was able to determine the speed above which the levitating magnet would have to spin in order to maintain stable levitation. If the angular speed was too slow, the gyroscopic stabilising effect would be lost. The spinning top shape for the levitating magnet was adopted in order to reduce the drag caused by air friction as the top spins. Thus it would be able to spin for longer. He also found that as the top spins, a diamagnetic effect occurs. The motion of the spinning levitating top relative to the base magnets causes a current to be induced in the spinning top. The induced currents set up a magnetic field which opposes the base magnets in such a way that it tries to slow the rotation of the levitating top, causing the levitating time to be reduced. Thus the Levitron uses ceramic magnets and ceramic materials instead of conducting metals. This reduces the induced currents and thus the unwanted opposing magnetic fields. This allows the top to spin for longer. Because the air friction and induced currents cannot be completely eliminated however, the levitating effect cannot be maintained or controlled.

16 Fig1: The Levitron top levitating above its permanent magnet base. Image from: Ref: Martin D. Simon, Lee O. Heflinger Spin stabilized magnetic levitation, American Journal of Physics (April 1997)

17 4. THE MEISSNER EFFECT AND SUPERCONDUCTORS One of the interesting properties of superconductors was researched by Meissner, and is known as the Meissner effect. The Meissner effect is a phenomenon that occurs when certain conductors are cooled below their critical temperature which is typically 0 K. It was observed that under this condition the conductor would become a superconductor, and would in fact repel magnetic fields of any orientation. In other words, a piece of superconducting material cooled to below its critical temperature will repel a magnetic south pole or a magnetic north pole, without having to move it. This is a special case of diamagnetism. In a conventional conductor such as copper, if a magnet is brought in proximity to it, an electric current is induced in the copper. According to Lenz s law, this induced current will establish a magnetic field to counteract or oppose the nearby magnetic field caused by the magnet. Due to the fact that copper is not a perfect conductor however, the induced current quickly dies away due to the internal resistance present in the conductor. When the current disappears, the magnetic field collapses along with it. Thus, this induced current and its accompanying magnetic field are only observed when the nearby magnet is moving. The movement of the nearby magnetic field would then constantly stimulate the induced current and the opposing magnetic field. This phenomenon explains the damping effect that a copper plate in close proximity has on the movement of a magnet. As can be seen from the above explanation, theoretically, if the induced current did not dissipate due to the resistance of the conductor, then the accompanying magnetic field should persist as well. This is in effect, what happens in a superconductor cooled to below its critical temperature. There is zero resistance inside the superconductor, and so the induced current and its accompanying magnetic field would not dissipate, even if the magnet stopped moving. As long

18 as the magnet is present, the opposing magnetic field will exist. This causes a magnet brought close to a cooled superconductor to be repelled, regardless of which magnetic pole the superconductor is exposed to. The opposing magnetic field induced in a superconductor can become so strong that it can effectively match the downwards force on a nearby magnet caused by its weight. The resultant effect observed is that a magnet, placed above a cooled superconductor, can remain there, stably levitated. This does not however explain how come the magnet remains stably levitated above the superconductor without slipping off the side. As Earnshaw showed, simple magnetic repulsion is not sufficient to maintain stable levitation. This problem is solved at the molecular level. Within the superconductor are impurities, i.e. areas which do not have electric current flowing in them, and as a result are not producing an opposing magnetic field. These areas, although small, are big enough to allow regions of the magnetic field from the nearby magnet to penetrate the superconductor. If the magnet moved, the magnetic field would have to move with it. But because the magnetic field is unable to penetrate the superconductor in any other area, the magnetic field is effectively locked in place. Thus, because the magnetic field is being held in place by the holes in the opposing magnetic field of the super conductor, the magnet too, is held in place. This is what holds the magnet in place above the superconductor and keeps it stably levitated. This is known as flux pinning.

19 Fig2: A magnet levitating above a superconductor Image from: Ref: The Meissner Effect [online] (October 2005)

20 5. ELECTROMAGNETIC MAGNETIC SUSPENSION The easiest way to levitate an object electromagnetically (from a control perspective) is via magnetic suspension. The object that is to be levitated is placed below an electromagnet (only one is required), and the strength of the magnetic field produced by the electromagnet is controlled to exactly cancel out the downward force on the object caused by its weight. This method circumvents Earnshaw s theorem by making use of feedback. Thus the system only has to contend with one force, the levitating object s weight. This system works via the force of attraction between the electromagnet and the object. Because of this, the levitating object does not need to be a magnet; it can be any ferrous material. This further simplifies the design considerations. To prevent the object from immediately attaching itself to the electromagnet, the object s position has to be sensed and this information fed back into the control circuit regulating the current in the electromagnet. This produces the basic feedback arrangement depicted below. Fig3: Diagram showing the basic control arrangement of a magnetic suspension system. Position setpoint + - Error Current control circuitry Electromagnet current Electromagnet Position of object Measured position Position sensor

21 If the object gets too close to the electromagnet, the current in the electromagnet must be reduced. If the object gets too far, the current to the electromagnet must be increased. A possible physical arrangement is shown below. Fig4: Diagram showing the physical model of a magnetic suspension system. Electromagnet Position Sensor Levitating Object Supporting Stand There are various ways to sense the position of the levitating object. One way is optically. A beam of light is shone across the bottom of the electromagnet and detected at the other side. As the object obscures more and more light (indicating that the object is getting closer to the electromagnet) the electromagnet controller limits the current more and more. As the object drops away from the electromagnet, more light is exposed to the sensor, and the current to the electromagnet is increased. This system can prove difficult to properly set up, as the alignment of the light source and the light sensor is critical. Also critical is the shape of the levitating object, because the rate at which light is obscured or exposed should be linear as the object rises and falls. This will produce the best results.

22 The position can also be sensed capacitively. A small metal plate can be placed between the levitating object and the electromagnet. The capacitance between the levitating object and the metal plate can be sensed and used to determine the distance between the two. The advantage of this system is that the capacitance between the plate and the object is always linear regardless of the shape of the levitating object. The capacitance is given by the following equation. C = Aε 0 ε r d C = capacitance (farads) A = area of capacitor plates (m 2 ) ε 0 = permittivity of free space ε r = relative permeability d = distance between plates (m) The metal plate positioning is also not as critical as the sensor positioning in the optical solution, and is thus slightly easier to set up. The disadvantage of this solution is that the metal plate placed below the electromagnet may have undesired effects on the magnetic behaviour of the system. If the material is ferrous, its proximity to the electromagnet and its shape would alter the resultant magnetic field shape in the area of the levitating object. Also the circuitry required to sense the capacitance accurately is fairly complex and sensitive to circuit layouts. Another means of position sensing is via ultra sonic sound transmitters. These work on the concept of sonar. A chirp sound signal is transmitted and the time taken for the signal to return after bouncing off the levitating object is used to determine its distance. This however, is a very complex solution given the simplicity of the system? Also because of the very short distance over which the ultrasonic sensors would have to transmit, this solution becomes unfeasible.

23 The position can also be sensed with a Hall Effect sensor. For this solution, one hall sensor can be placed on the north pole of the electromagnet, and the other on the south pole. The hall sensor is a device which has a linearly increasing voltage response to an increasing magnetic flux. It can detect both north poles and south poles, by either raising its output voltage above its quiescent output voltage, or decreasing its output voltage below its quiescent output voltage. The outputs of both sensors can be sent to the inputs of a differential opamp in order determine the difference between them. When there is no object to levitate, the outputs of both sensors will be equal. As an object approaches the bottom of the electromagnet however, it becomes magnetized by the magnetic field of the electromagnet. Thus, there would exist two magnetic fields on either side of the hall sensor on the bottom of the electromagnet. One would be due to the electromagnet and the other due to the magnetizing field in the levitating object. This would cause the bottom hall sensor to detect the net magnetic field, while the top hall sensor would still be detecting the magnetic field of the electromagnet only. The differential opamp would then output a signal which could be used to control the current to the electromagnet. Because the hall sensors have a linear response, the differential opamp output would rise and fall linearly as the object rose and fell. The circuit used to implement a solution of this nature only has to achieve linear current control from 0 amperes to the maximum operating current. Only a single supply is required, along with the sensor circuitry and the proper gain to the current source control. It has been noted however in experiments with this system, that oscillations in the levitating object exist due to the phase lag caused by the current control circuitry and the electromagnet itself, which is in fact a large inductive load. In physical terms, the problem is that the circuit reacts too slowly to the changes in position of the levitating object. If the object drops it is inherently accelerating. The control circuit would over compensate with a large correcting current, and by the time it slacked off, the object would be accelerating

24 towards the electromagnet. This causes growing oscillations as the control circuitry constantly over compensates until eventually levitation cannot be maintained and the object falls. Thus to counteract the phase lag caused by the control circuitry and the electromagnet, phase lead needs to be added. In control terms, the position of the levitating object is insufficient information to maintain stable levitation; the rate of change of position is required as well, i.e. the speed. This can be achieved with the basic circuit below. Fig5: Diagram showing a simple phase lead circuit R1 R2 C1 This circuit would be positioned between the position sensing circuitry and the current control circuitry. As a heuristic, R2 is usually one tenth of R1 (to limit AC current). C2 is determined based on the cut-off frequency, i.e. the frequency of the oscillation that must be eliminated. This is determined according to the equation: f = 1 2πRC f = frequency of oscillation (Hz) R = R1 (ohms) C = C1 (farads)

25 The position information is the dc signal and passes through the resistor R1, giving it the appropriate gain. To obtain the speed, the position information is differentiated with the resistor and capacitor combination in series. This is indicated by R2 and C1 in parallel with R1. Thus both the position and the speed information are summed to determine what the driving current should be. When the levitating object is still or moving slowly, the position information is dominant. If the object starts rising or falling quickly however, the speed information becomes more dominant in the calculation of the necessary current. Thus the effect of the acceleration of the object is nullified, and the unwanted oscillations in the levitation of the object are damped. Fig6: Picture showing a magnetic suspension system in action. Image from:

26 6. ELECTROMAGNETIC LEVITATION The main driving interest behind electromagnetic levitation is in its applications in mass transport. Much research is being done on the methods and complexities of this technology. In its applications in mass transport, particularly trains, this technology is loosely referred to as MagLev. 6.1 MAGLEV This concept has already found commercial application in maglev trains. MagLev is an acronym for magnetic levitation, and is most commonly used when referring to trains. MagLev is desirable in such an application because of the low maintenance for the track networks, and the low friction track that it provides. Because many trains gain their energy from sources not on the actual train, the energy requirements of the system become less stringent. Therefore, even though, it takes a considerable amount of energy to levitate the train, the energy can be feasibly obtained and transferred to the train Design Considerations Various things need to be taken into account when considering the levitation subsystem of a greater MagLev system. The most obvious considerations are the requirements to levitate the train. These include the force required to lift the train, energy consumption, drive systems (the way in which electromagnets are arranged and triggered which causes the train to move forward) and forces acting on the train as it travels at high speed through turns. Apart from this are the constructional and cost considerations of such a system. For something as large as a train, these are quite important. The

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