Although we’re more than five years past the date Marty arrived in “the future” in Back to the Future Part II, engineers still haven’t quite been able to nail an IRL version of the film’s iconic hoverboard. That despite many attempts, some of which were more successful than others. Now, however, a group of engineers has made a new prototype board, and it works flawlessly when it’s on the right surface. And when it’s not on fire.
A mechanical engineering student at the University of Waterloo who goes by “Jimmy” here is the mastermind behind the board. Jimmy built the board as his internship project with YouTuber, the Hacksmith. For those unfamiliar, the Hacksmith (a.k.a. James Hobson), is a Canadian engineer with a penchant for making pop culture props a reality.
In the video above, Jimmy and Hobson show off their take on the Back to the Future H-board. The real test—with riders—begins around 11 minutes in, with Jimmy showing how the prototype’s able to hover thanks to an array of powerful, spinning magnets. Albeit only when it’s above a good metal conductor, like steel.
The board needs to be above steel to work because it utilizes electrical currents known as “ eddy currents” to hover. Essentially, the Back to the Future inspired board’s spinning magnets create magnetic fields, which, in turn, create circular electrical currents in the steel floor beneath the board. (Moving magnetic fields induce electrical currents in conductors.) These rotating electrical currents generate magnetic fields themselves, which oppose the ones created by the spinning magnets. Hence, the hovering.
As for the results, Jimmy’s hoverboard is probably the best real-life version of the film’s prop we’ve ever seen. It genuinely hovers and doesn’t need to be chilled down to -197 °C with liquid nitrogen like Lexus’ version does. (Yes, Lexus made a hoverboard.) Plus, it looks the part, and seems easy enough to ride.
As for the downsides, the Back to the Future board did occasionally catch fire during testing; although to be fair, Jimmy seems to have worked out that issue. Plus, the prototype’s limited to surfaces that are good electrical conductors. Which means wherever we’re going, we’re going to need roads! Lots of them, and made out of steel too. Until some real-life Doc or another YouTuber can come up with a better prototype, that is.
Featured Image: Hacksmith Industries