A striking example of levitation is encountered in the “kugel fountain” where a granite sphere, sometimes weighing over a ton, is kept aloft by a thin film of flowing water. In this paper, we explain the working principle behind this levitation. We show that the fountain can be viewed as a giant ball bearing and thus forms a prime example of lubrication theory. It is demonstrated how the viscosity and flow rate of the fluid determine (i) the remarkably small thickness of the film supporting the sphere and (ii) the surprisingly long time it takes for rotations to damp out. The theoretical results compare well with measurements on a fountain holding a granite sphere of one meter in diameter. We close by discussing several related cases of levitation by lubrication.
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PAPERS| November 01 2014
Physics of the granite sphere fountain
Jacco H. Snoeijer;
Jacco H. Snoeijer, Ko van der Weele; Physics of the granite sphere fountain. Am. J. Phys. 1 November 2014; 82 (11): 1029–1039. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4886365
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