Levitating Light Bulb June 21, 2007Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Physics, Technology, Tough Stuff, Weird Gadgets.
The levitating light bulb is the intelligent creation of Jeff Lieberman. In fact, it’s a newer version of his earlier work. There are no tricks or anything like that in this picture. You are seeing the real, unedited result of his hard work, along with support from a team of quirky helpers. The light bulb mysteriously floats 2.5 inches from the nearest object and as you can see, it has a very minimalistic and futuristic design.
A Floating Light Bulb? That’s Impossible!
Think again! The light bulb is not the same as most light bulbs. Inside it, there are magnets and circuitry hidden away. On his website, Jeff talks about how two intriguing phenomena encouraged him to create this unique light bulb display: feedback stabilization of unstable systems and wireless power transmission. For a full description of Jeff’s work, you can check out this page.
Give Me The Simple Run-Down
It’s not an easy task and there’s a lot of fiddling and creativity to accomplish the work. According to Jeff, there are three important systems that must be examined and tweaked before you can levitate a light bulb.
The first is something called a matched resonant transformer. This wirelessly transmits power from a drive coil to a receive coil, at approximately 6 inches away. The second area to play with is a sensor system. This system gets rid of lots of the common problems that occur in magnetic levitation sensing. The third is a feedback control system, which lets Jeff smoothly levitate a magnet in a fixed position by using the sensor system designed earlier.
The end result is that the light bulb floats and remains stable, while power gets wirelessly transmitted from the base of the sculpture into the bulb. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) in the bulb harness the power of alternating currents (ACs) and convert them to light. Jeff likens the power transfer function to that of radio station tuning, which allows power transmission through the air.
Compare It To The Older Version
According to Jeff, the new version operates at a ‘higher wireless transfer efficiency.‘ What does he mean? Well it basically means that you get a brighter light bulb for less expended energy. It’s a better design that provides greater efficiency.
Credit: All photos by Jeff Lieberman. The one above is the
older version from 2005. It looks a little rusty compared
to the more efficient, modern version, but it still operates
under similar principles.
I asked Jeff what inspired him to create the levitating light bulb and he thoughtfully replied:
I typically get inspired in a combination of ways. Dreams and their imagery are very inspiring for me. Often, I will awaken from something I saw in a dream and sketch it down. Also, any time I learn about new technologies and I’m excited by them, I make a mental-or sometimes even a physical-note about them. In this case, magnetic levitation and wireless power transmission were both phenomena I found amazing but I had never seen them go together. So, when I started to think about that, the levitating light bulb resulted.
In a nutshell, the creation is an electromagnetically levitated light bulb that is wirelessly powered. How convenient is that? No wires and plus, it just plain looks cool! Maybe a little too cool though. Instead of doing homework, you might just want to sit and stare at the odd looking thing all day. If your parents complain, don’t blame it on the weird science blog. You can blame it on the innovative and cool dudes like Jeff who use scientific principles to challenge the standard light bulb and create something that makes us all exclaim ‘wow!’