Magnet Lab to Investigate Promising Superconductor

October 13, 2009

( -- The Applied Superconductivity Center at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has received $1.2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to understand and enhance a new form of superconducting material that could be used to build more-powerful magnets used in a wide range of scientific research.

The grant is part of a larger $4 million award over two years to a collaboration -- the Very High Field Superconducting Magnet Collaboration -- for which David C. Larbalestier, the magnet lab’s chief materials scientist and director of the Applied Center, and Alvin Tollestrup of Fermilab are the project leaders.

Superconductivity is a phenomenon observed in several materials. When cooled to extremely low temperatures, superconductors have no electrical resistance, meaning can travel through them freely. Because of this, superconducting materials can carry large amounts of electrical current for long periods of time without losing energy as heat.

The DOE funds will enable Larbalestier, Eric Hellstrom, Jianyi Jiang, Ulf Trociewitz and others at the magnet lab to investigate a complex superconducting material with the unwieldy name of bismuth strontium calcium , or BSCCO-2212.

This material is unique among all of the so-called high-temperature superconductors because it can be made into round wires, a form that is much more flexible for making magnets. The goal of the new magnet lab research is to thoroughly understand BSCCO-2212’s performance limits and to construct superconducting research magnets far more powerful than those currently made with niobium-based materials. (Bismuth and niobium are both metals that exhibit superconducting properties when exposed to extremely low temperatures.)

“This material is very promising, but it’s very complex and not very strong,” Larbalestier said. “The DOE has entrusted us with the funds to make a broad U.S. collaboration that directly addresses both the fundamental processing and grain boundary science of these fascinating materials and their application to new generations of magnets, both at the magnet lab and in the DOE high-energy physics laboratories.”

Developing higher-field superconducting magnets would transform high-field research, significantly reducing the costs to operate the magnets. Non-superconducting electromagnets, called resistive magnets, consume massive amounts of electricity. At the magnet lab, the average cost to run a resistive magnet is $774 per hour -- 40 times more than a 20-tesla superconducting magnet, because once a superconducting magnet is brought to full field, it can operate perpetually. That would allow scientists to remain at high fields for hours and even days, since operating costs would be dramatically lower than they are now.

The other institutions participating in the collaboration are Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermilab, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Texas A&M University.

Traditional, niobium-based cannot generate fields above about 24 tesla, but in October 2008, magnet lab engineers constructed a BSCCO-2212 test coil that achieved 32 tesla. (Tesla is the scientific unit of measure of magnetic field strength; 32 tesla is more than 3,000 times stronger than a refrigerator magnet.)

“This collaboration provides major DOE support toward a central goal of the National Science Foundation,” Larbalestier said. “It’s a great example of multiple stakeholders working together to push high field magnet development to the next level.”

More information: … ch/asc/overview.html

Provided by Florida State University (news : web)

Explore further: New World Record For Superconducting Magnet Set

Related Stories

New World Record For Superconducting Magnet Set

August 7, 2007

A collaboration between the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University and industry partner SuperPower Inc. has led to a new world record for a magnetic field created by a superconducting magnet.

Team to build next-generation magnet

September 26, 2006

The National Science Foundation has awarded the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory an $11.7-million grant for construction of an innovative magnet that will have the potential to revolutionize a technique used to learn ...

Recommended for you

Physicists design $100 handheld muon detector

November 20, 2017

At any given moment, the Earth's atmosphere is showered with high-energy cosmic rays that have been blasted from supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena far beyond the Solar System. When cosmic rays collide with the ...

A curious quirk brings organic diode lasers one step closer

November 20, 2017

Since their invention in 1962, semiconductor diode lasers have revolutionized communications and made possible information storage and retrieval in CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray devices. These diode lasers use inorganic semiconductors ...

Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

November 17, 2017

Specially tailored, ultrafast pulses of light can trigger neurons to fire and could one day help patients with light-sensitive circadian or mood problems, according to a new study in mice at the University of Illinois.

Strain-free epitaxy of germanium film on mica

November 17, 2017

Germanium, an elemental semiconductor, was the material of choice in the early history of electronic devices, before it was largely replaced by silicon. But due to its high charge carrier mobility—higher than silicon by ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.