Build Your Own Magnetic Accelerator Using Neodymium Magnets

Did you know you can make your own mini-railgun from basic neodymium magnets?
Christopher McFadden

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Are you ready to have some fun with magnets? If you are, we have three incredibly fun magnetic accelerators for you to build and test in the comfort of your own home. 

Be warned, however, these accelerators are surprisingly powerful, so we'd advise you to keep any fragile or valuable things well out of the way. In fact, it is not too far from the truth to call them mini-railguns

magnetic accelerator complete
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

But first, as you might imagine, you'll need some stuff first.

Materials and gear needed

With all your tools and materials in hand, it is now time to get on with this epic, but awesome, build. 

Setup 1: Make a basic dual-row magnet accelerator

The first step is to get your pile of neodymium magnets. For this particular experiment cube ones are best.

Take the magnets, and stick them to a metal plate in two parallel rows and at equal intervals. Gradually space the magnets closer and closer towards one end of each row. Make sure that all magnets are the same polarity along each of the rows but opposing polarity across the rows (e.g. N above and S below).

Next, take a grooved strip of non-magnetic material (this could be a piece of a picture frame, 3-D scale ruler, etc) and secure it in between the two rows of magnetic cubes. 

magnetic accelerator test setup
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, take a small magnetic ball, and place it on one end of the grooved strip. If the magnets are well placed, the ball should move and accelerate along the grooved rail. It will likely come to a full stop at some point towards the end of the rail. 

This is to be expected, we are only testing the concept at the moment. 

Next, we can test the setup to see how it performs as a railgun. Take another non-magnetic ball, say a glass marble, and place that near the end of the rail roughly where the metal ball came to a full stop.  Then, take the metal ball again, and let the magnets take it from the other end. 

The ball should accelerate, impact the other ball, and send it flying off the other end of the rail. You can play around with the setup a bit too, by raising one end and adding a target opposite the end of the rail.

magnetic accelerator gun
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

The non-magnetic ball should strike the target with little to no effort. Make sure no other fragile or valuable objects are in the path of the ball -- it does exit the rail at a fair rate of speed. 

Next, you can create a similar setup using disc neodymium magnets instead. Take a pile of them, and create another twin row of parallel magnets. Then, place two larger ones at one end of each row. 

Take another grooved piece of wood or plastic, and squeeze it between the rows of magnets. You will likely need to shuffle the magnets around a little. 

With that done, take another magnetic ball, and test the setup as before. Once again it should accelerate and come to a full stop just above the large magnets. You may find this setup has a bit more punch to it than just using the cube magnets. So, you can try and fire a larger glass marble. 

magnet accelerator larger magnets
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

Again set up a target to test the rail. 

Setup 2: Make a v-gate magnetic accelerator

For our next magnet accelerator, take some more of the disc magnets and place them in a single row along a length of profiled metal. As before, space them evenly. 

Rinse and repeat to make the second row of magnets. As with the previous experiment, ensure each row is the same polarity, but the polarity reverses across the two rows. 

magnet accelerator polarity
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, place the metal lengths in a slight v-shape on a piece of wood. Next, add a grooved piece of wood or plastic between the two metal rows.

With that done, take a magnetic sphere and place it towards the open end of the v-shape. The ball should accelerate towards the end of the rail, reverse direction to roughly the middle, and then come to a full stop towards the end of the rail. 

magnet accelerator v-shape
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

As with the first set of accelerators, this setup should be capable of acting as a very capable miniature railgun.

Setup 3: Make a simple magnetic ramp come railgun

And finally, the last experiment is to make an awesome magnetic ramp accelerator. 

To do this, take your bar magnets, and stick them to your steel plate in a progressively increasing wedge shape. Start with two magnets, then three, then four, etc until the final row of seven. Leave a gap between each stack of magnets. 

magnetic accelerator ramp setup
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

With that done, take a strip of glass, or plastic, and place this one on top of the magnets. Next, take a magnetic rod, and place it near the thinnest row of magnets of the wedge. 

Like previous setups, the rod should accelerate along with the wedge, reach the end, and come to rest towards one end of the wedge shape of magnets. 

As with other setups, you should be able to use this setup of magnets to fire non-magnetic projectiles, like large glass marbles, etc. 

However, the most fun part of this setup is its ability to be used as an elevator, of sorts. Hold the metal plate vertically, and then roll a magnetic rod towards the base of the glass. 

The rod should move towards the magnets and then roll vertically upwards, again coming to rest at the top. The attraction between the magnets is so strong, it should also work at inverted, and at steep overhangs. 

magnetic accelerator overhangs
Source: Magnetic Games/YouTube

 Of course, as with the other setups, you can use this one as an ad hoc railgun too. 

And that is your lot for today. 

If you enjoyed these magnetic-based projects, you might like some more? How about, for example, making some magnets actually orbit one another?

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