Sep 11, 2008 06:13 PM | 3
Discovery News directs our attention to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University, where researchers are working on the "world's most powerful magnet—one that won't blow up a split second after it's turned on."
The bit about not blowing up is key. Researchers have actually built more powerful magnets before, according to Discovery News, but this $10 million electromagnet, housed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, is apparently the first *reusable* magnet of its kind.
The 100 tesla multi-shot magnet consists of a cylinder 5 feet tall by 5 feet thick, with an 8-inch hole through the middle. Inside the hole are nine copper coils reinforced with thin silver wire. Assuming it works like the old iron nail wrapped in copper wire, electricity pulsed through the coils generates a magnetic field in the metal cylinder.
The magnet is designed to produce 100 teslas of magnetic field, equivalent to about 100 MRI machines. For comparison, Earth's magnetic field measures 50 microteslas. It's currently running at 90 tesla, the lab says.
That kind of field takes a toll on the magnet. The copper–silver inserts will experience huge pressures and have to be replaced every 100 pulses. The outer part of the electromagnet is expected to survive 10,000 pulses.
Earlier 100-tesla magnets didn't even make it to their second pulses, a researcher from the lab tells Discovery News.
Applications? Among the lab's research projects are semiconductor physics—including fractional electron weirdness that might be good for a quantum computer someday—and high-temperature superconductivity, which has found some use in the power grid.
And let's not forget blowing the minds of cows and deer.
If you like this magnet, you'll looove this 30-ton metal sphere full of liquid sodium. The University of Maryland built it to model Earth's magnetic field.
Image credit: National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
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