Can you crush a can? Or launch it in the air?

Can Crusher

The Demonstration: A soda can is launched into the air using a giant electromagnet. Change the starting position and the can is crushed. Be sure to cover your ears!

Quick Physics: The electromagnet has a strong enough magnetic field to turn the can into an electromagnet as well. The two magnets repel and the can is launched! If it has no where to launch, the can is crushed by the force of the magnetic field.

The Details:
The can crusher is a giant electromagnet. A wire comes from the capacitor, which is like a big battery. Then the wire wraps around in a coil to make an electromagnet. The coil becomes a very strong magnet when the can crusher is turned on. It is thousands of times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field and its strength can be used to crush a metal can.

When we put a can in the coil and turn the can crusher on, electricity flows through the coil. Also, some of the electricity flows around the outside of the can. Like the jumping ring, the can crusher has two electromagnets: the coil and the can. We know that magnets repel each other if they point the same way. The can is repelled by the coil from all directions. Since the can is inside the coil, the sides of the can get pushed away from the coil. This crushes the realtively soft metal can. We can also put the can on top of the coil instead of inside it. Now the bottom of the can is repelled by the top of the coil. Instead of crushing the can, it goes shooting off into the air like a rocket.


Link to Teacher Resources

Page Updated 8/29/07