Crystal C levitation machine

Category: Inventions
Collaborators: Meta Grgurevič, Jaša

Crystal C levitation machine cover picture

This project was hugely influential in my life. In the summer of 2013, I was feeling not so happy with my life in Helsinki and, for some undiscernible twist of psychology, I decided to reset everything. I quit my software engineering position at Documill, gave up my apartment, threw away everything I could not not fit into a backpack, and bought a one-way ticket to Berlin. By incredible stroke of luck (not the only one I got during that very chaotic and magical period of my life), Meta contacted me again. It had already been some years since we built the first levitation machine. Now she was about to work on that topic again. As I happened to be about as free as a human being can, I immediately agreed to come to Ljubljana and make another, bigger and better levitation machine with her.

This time the machine was to be used as the centerpiece of Meta’s husband Jaša’s exhibition called Crystal C, held in Kulturni Center Tobačna 001. There was to be a vial of crystal glass containing a special elixir of art, levitating in the middle of the exhibition.

In the beginning we experimented with methods of levitation different from the one had already used. Due to huge practical problems and uncertainty over if the alternative methods could even theoretically work, we resorted to apply the same principle we had already used. Only this time, we took more systematic and scientific approach to the construction, and also climbed the ladder of technology a little bit, using a microcontroller instead of the previous analogue control circuit. We also made our electromagnets. This required fabricating the iron cores and plastic structures, which Meta made with France Petač in the latter’s workshop. We also made our own tools for smoothly wrapping the wire, with automatic counting of turns and all.

The last parts of this project were quite stressful. We got old of the vial to be levitated only very close to the opening. I have no idea what we would have done if the filled vial had been too heavy, or if its shape was bad. But, we got lucky and it levitated just as well as our test objects — or then the designed of the vial was passed some information about our experiments with test objects, I do not know. Another big surprise was that the whole thing was to be fixed on a real tree, sawed to pieces for transport and reassembled inside the gallery. And the tree itself was hanging from some ropes attached to ceiling! As you can imagine, that was not the most stable fixture. The slight movements of the tree disturbed the balance of levitation, threatering to drop the vial. Three hours before the opening we were still not quite sure if the setup would work. But, it did and the end result was great.

Detailed (maybe too detailed!) information about the technical stuff is available in Gitub repository wiki of the project.

After the first opening, Crystal C went to New York when Jaša relocated himself there. I hear that the machine was installed on rigid structure there and was running four months without a glitch.