Los Alamos achieves world-record pulsed magnetic field, moves closer to 100-tesla mark

Aug 23, 2011
Yates Coulter, left, and Mike Gordon of Los Alamos National Laboratory make final preparations before successfully achieving a world-record for the strongest magnetic field produced by a nondestructive magnet. Working at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's Pulsed Field Facility at Los Alamos, a team of researchers achieved a field of 97.4 tesla, which is nearly 100 times stronger than the magnetic field found in giant electromagnets used in metal scrap yards.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's Pulsed Field Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory have set a new world record for the strongest magnetic field produced by a nondestructive magnet.

The scientists achieved a field of 92.5 tesla on Thursday, August 18, taking back a record that had been held by a team of German scientists and then, the following day, surpassed their achievement with a whopping 97.4-tesla field. For perspective, Earth's is 0.0004 tesla, while a junk-yard magnet is 1 tesla and a medical has a magnetic field of 3 tesla.

The ability to create pulses of extremely high magnetic fields nondestructively (high-power magnets routinely rip themselves to pieces due to the large forces involved) provides researchers with an unprecedented tool for studying of materials, from metals and superconductors to semiconductors and . The interaction of high magnetic fields with electrons within these materials provides valuable clues for scientists about the properties of materials. With the recent record-breaking achievement, the Pulsed Field Facility at LANL, a national user facility, will routinely provide scientists with of 95 tesla, enticing the worldwide user community to Los Alamos for a chance to use this one-of-a-kind capability.

The record puts the Los Alamos team within reach of delivering a magnet capable of achieving 100 tesla, a goal long sought by researchers from around the world, including scientists working at competing magnet labs in Germany, China, France, and Japan.

Such a powerful nondestructive magnet could have a profound impact on a wide range of scientific investigations, from how to design and control material functionality to research into the microscopic behavior of . This type of magnet allows researchers to carefully tune material parameters while perfectly reproducing the non-invasive magnetic field. Such high magnetic fields confine electrons to nanometer scale orbits, thereby helping to reveal the fundamental quantum nature of a material.

Thursday's experiment was met with as much excitement as trepidation by the group of condensed matter scientists, high-field magnet technicians, technologists, and pulsed-magnet engineers who gathered to witness the NHMFL-PFF retake the world record. Crammed into the tight confines of the Magnet Lab's control room, they gathered, lab notebooks or caffeine of choice in hand. Their conversation reflected a giddy sense of anticipation tempered with nervousness.

With Mike Gordon commanding the controls that draw power off of a massive 1.4-gigawatt generator system and directs it to the magnet, all eyes and ears were keyed to video monitors showing the massive 100 tesla Multishot Magnet and the capacitor bank located in the now eerily empty Large Magnet Hall next door. The building had been emptied as a standard safety protocol.

Scientists heard a low warping hum, followed by a spine-tingling metallic screech signaling that the magnet was spiking with a precisely distributed electric current of more than 100 megajoules of energy. As the sound dissipated and the monitors confirmed that the magnet performed perfectly, attention turned to data acquired during the shot through two in-situ measurements—proof positive that the magnet had achieved 92.5 , thus yanking back from a team of German scientists a record that Los Alamos had previously held for five years.

The next day's even higher 97.4-tesla achievement was met with high-fives and congratulatory pats on the back. Later, researchers Charles Mielke, Neil Harrison, Susan Seestrom, and Albert Migliori certified with their signatures the data that would be sent to the Guiness Book of World Records.

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5 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2011
I didn't see anything indicating what kind of time frame was involved. Microseconds? Milliseconds? Seconds? If it was microseconds, there must be some serious shielding to absorb the EMP. Also when they say they control a 1.4 Gw power source, that makes it sound like they have a nuclear reactor at their disposal. Could it be the 1.4 Gw is really a few megawatts that is stored up to discharge as if it was a 1.4 Gw shot? Like 100 megawatts stored for 10.4 seconds and discharged in one second?

Even at that, it would be a lot of energy.

10 megawatts stored for 104 seconds and discharged in 1.4 seconds? Etc?
5 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2011
The length of the pulse is indeed an important parameter and very much implicit in the text. The article states that they use a capacitor bank, which is typically used to store a large amount of electric energy to be discharged in a short amount of time. It's slightly strangely worded, but I assume that the total energy provided by the capacitor bank during the pulse is 10^8 J (100 MJ). The 1.4 GW (i.e. 1.4 * 10^9 J/s) is probably the peak power (i.e. at the peak of the pulse). If the power were constant, this would give you a pulse length of 70 ms. However, I suspect that a significant fraction of the total energy is dissipated in the ramp-up and ramp-down phases, even though there the power will be lower. My guess is that the total pulse is longer, but the 97.4 T exists for only milliseconds or less. I also suspect that they will only charge the capacitor bank over the course of many minutes. They probably need to wait a long time for the coils to cool down again between shots anyway
1 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2011
Doesn't sound very impressive compared to the 2800T obtained (with explosives) in a laboratory in 1998...
5 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2011
In this building, you can still perform experiments. I don't know anything about that 2800T but as a chemist, I could imagine that explosives are not preferred when performing a delicate experiment..., just a thought
5 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2011
In this building, you can still perform experiments. I don't know anything about that 2800T but as a chemist, I could imagine that explosives are not preferred when performing a delicate experiment..., just a thought

You think?