Magnets. For centuries we’ve studied their wonderful forces of attraction and repulsion and implemented them into pretty much every available technology from computers to industrial power generator. But for many people magnets are still nothing more than clever little decorations used for pinning grocery lists and scholastic achievements to their refrigerator. So to help magnets get the recognition and credit they truly deserve, we’ve put together a list of some of the ways they’re poised to change our lives for the better in the near future.
5. Smart Roads For Self-Driving Cars
Tech companies and startups everywhere are currently racing to bring driverless vehicles to market. In order to help make sure that our roads are ready for the mass arrival of robot cars, some companies have taken it upon themselves to research ways to update the existing infrastructure. In 2014, Volvo announced it had completed a research project that demonstrated the advantages of embedding magnetic sensors in roads. The purpose of the magnets is to help guide self-driving cars. Researchers believe that they have an advantage over existing technologies, such as GPS, which can sometimes become unreliable or inoperable under certain conditions.
4. Concussion-Proof Helmets
Concussions are a growing concern in the world of professional sports. In 2014 there were 123 concussions reported in the NFL, many of them sustained by defensive players. Thankfully, protective helmets could be getting a major redesign. Most hard helmets available today do a good job protecting the skull, but since the brain is suspended in fluid, it’s still quite susceptible to injury. Now researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University believe that adding lightweight magnets to the front and sides of football helmets could help lessen the impact in head-to-head collisions. The idea is that, when players are involved in a head-to-head clash, the magnets inside the helmets would repel each other just enough to decrease the g-forces that hit their heads—reducing the chances of getting a concussion.
3. Maglev Trains
A maglev train is sophisticated type of high-speed train that ditches wheels in favor of magnets. By utilizing electromagnets, the train can avoid coming in direct contact with the track, thereby eliminating friction and enabling it to glide along at super high speeds.
In 2015, Japan broke the train world speed record with a maglev train that clocked in at 366 miles per hour. Onboard the train are superconducting magnets that are repelled from the magnetic coils located in the sides of the surrounding guide rails. These opposing forces have alternating north and south poles that effectively create a push-and-pull effect that works to propel the train forward.
Not only are maglev trains much faster than traditional trains, they’re also quieter, smoother and more environmentally friendly.
Anyone who’s ever watched Back to the Future 2 has probably been waiting for the day that hoverboards become a reality. Now that it’s 2015, we’re finally seeing the first steps being taken to make that dream come true, as companies like Lexus have begun using magnets to engineer a rideable skateboard-like vehicle that can actually float an inch off the ground.
Built into the Lexus hoverboard are a series of magnets and superconductors surrounded by liquid hydrogen reservoirs that chill the superconductors to -322 degrees Fahrenheit. When the board is placed on a surface with built-in magnets, it lifts and can be propelled much like a maglev train.
1. Cancer-Detecting Agents
In the near future, detecting cancer could be as easy as swallowing a pill. Thanks to research being conducted at the secretive Google[x] lab, scientists are developing a pill that has the intended purpose of detecting cancers and other diseases in the body. How will this miracle pill work? Magnets, of course. Tiny magnetic nanoparticles would latch onto circulating cancer cells in a patient’s bloodstream. The data would then be relayed back to a wearable sensor where the magnetized, cancer-detecting nanoparticles would gather. If all things go according to plan, the technology could potentially give doctors the ability to detect cancer much earlier in patients.