Magnetic Food Levitation – Measuring The Density of Tastiness

As it turns out, density is actually a key factor in determining the fat and salt content of foods. Current methods of determining this density are both cumbersome and inaccurate, so the bastions of knowledge at Harvard went ahead and made an ice-cubed sized sensor that does the job. Oh – it uses magnetic levitation.


According to professor George Whitesides, measurements of a food’s density – be it of the solid or liquid variety – can give a great deal of information about its inner makeup. The density of a soft drink can tell you about its sugar content, the density of wine can let you know how drunk you’re going to get after that fifth bottle, and the density of that piece of Limburger cheese can tell you a great deal about its fat percentage. It cannot tell you not to eat it due to the unholy stench, but hopefully you already know that and don’t need science to give you the heads up.

Up until George got involved, the methods used to measure food density were complicated and expensive, but his team at Harvard decided that there might just be a better, more future-friendly option. Using the technology of magnetic levitation, best known for its use in super-fast trains that hover above their tracks, the Harvard hopefuls developed a small sensor that involves the use of two permanent magnets mounted at either end of a fluid-filled chamber.

This fluid is comprised of paramagenetic particles which hover between the two magnets, and to test a food, a small amount is simply placed into the fluid container and left alone for a moment. Based on its density, the food will float either up or down in the fluid. The farther it goes, the greater (or lesser) the density.

Glorious Maglevity: Neat, huh?Glorious Maglevity: Neat, huh? 

Sure, it’s not floating trains that travel at hundreds of miles per hour and potentially doom large segments of the Japanese population, but it’s still damn useful, according to the happy Harvardians. They’ve already demonstrated that their contraption can quickly and reliably determine the salt content in water, and the fat content in cheese and peanut butter.

This should help determine if drinking water is safe, as well as if it’s alright to have last one last piece of cake. If it comes to down to using your Maglev Foodotron, however, you probably already know you should just leave well enough alone.

Science. Not always used for what you’d think. A little dense, sometimes.

Source: EurekAlert