Record Breaking Magnet at National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is ending its year with another
achievement of international importance as engineers and technicians this week completed testing
of a world-record magnet.
With the completion of a new, 35-tesla magnet, the highest-field "resistive"
magnet in the world is located at the Tallahassee facility. The state-of-the-art magnet, which
incorporates "Florida-Bitter" technology invented at the lab, was designed and built on-site
and is immediately available for research.
The 35-tesla magnet is an upgrade of an existing 30-tesla magnet and surpasses
the previous record of 33 tesla, also held by the laboratory. "Tesla" is a measurement of the
strength of a magnetic field; 1 tesla is equal to 20,000 times the Earth's magnetic field.
Typical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines in hospitals provide fields in the range of
1-to-3 tesla. Put another way, the increase from 30 to 35 teslas in the new magnet represents a
17-percent jump, or an increase equal to the magnetic force of two MRI machines.
"With the advances that mag lab engineers and technicians have made in magnet
technology, it would be easy to become nonchalant about the significance of these world records,"
said Gregory Boebinger, director of the facility. "But each increase in field represents
world-class engineering and a quarter of a million dollar investment to provide new and unique
opportunities for scientific discovery."
Mark Bird, project
leader on the 35-tesla upgrade, said that as engineers learn more about existing materials and as
new materials become available, the lab is able to upgrade its existing magnets.
"We continuously strive to improve the performance of our magnets both by
pushing the fields higher and by increasing the quality of the fields," said Bird. "Our next
new magnet will focus not just on high field, but uniform field as well."
And higher and better fields are what the lab's users, who come from all over
the world, demand. The magnet lab is funded by the state of Florida and the National Science
Foundation to provide the international research community with the highest magnetic fields
possible to conduct research in all areas of science. Use of the magnets is free as long as
researchers agree to share the results of their work.
The majority of the magnets and instrumentation used at the magnet lab
are developed by laboratory staff and operated by in-house researchers who collaborate with
the hundreds of scientists who visit each year. The 35-tesla magnet, which has a 32 mm, or
1.25-inch, experimental space, will be used primarily for physics and materials science research.
The magnet lab is a consortium of Florida State University, the University of
Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Tallahassee facility houses both resistive —
so-called "powered" magnets that use both electricity and cooled water to operate — and
superconducting magnets that, once brought to full field, require little or no electrical power
to run. In July, the lab commissioned a world-record, 900-megahertz, wide-bore nuclear magnetic
resonance magnet, which is expected to yield important discoveries in the fields of chemical and
Magnetism is a critical component of many scientific discoveries and a surprising
number of modern technologies, including computer memory and disk drives. High-field magnets
now stand beside lasers and microscopes as essential research tools for probing the mysteries
of nature. Long used by the physics community to understand the fundamental nature of matter
and electronic structures, magnetic fields now are used by biologists, chemists and even
pharmacists to better understand complex molecules and tissues, and in fact are responsible
for the development of the MRI technology that has changed the face of modern medicine.
The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory develops and operates
state-of-the-art, high-magnetic-field facilities that faculty and visiting scientists and
engineers use for research in physics, biology, bioengineering, chemistry, geochemistry,
biochemistry and materials science. The laboratory is sponsored by the National
Science Foundation and the State of Florida and is the only
facility of its kind in the United States.