Research

Levitating Cylinders by Lubrication

An oil-coated cylinder levitates on a vertical treadmill.

Here’s a surprising example of defying gravity: if you coat a vertical treadmill in oil, a cylinder held next to it will levitate! A new paper delves into the mathematics behind this surprising situation, showing that the key to keeping the cylinder aloft is the pressure that forms where the oil layer splits around the disk. For a given cylinder size and mass, there’s a unique treadmill speed that will levitate it. By experimentally testing a range of cylinder sizes and masses, the authors validated their model and showed a simply scaling argument for predicting the belt speed needed for levitation. (Image and research credit: M. Dalwadi et al.; via Nature; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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