Superconductor Magnet Smashes Intensity Record

The MagLab at Florida State University are testing new magnetic possibilities.
Jessica Miley

A superconducting magnet has just set a new record for the strongest magnetic field ever recorded. The magnet recorded a 45.5-tesla magnetic field intensity. You souvenir fridge magnet contains about 1% of a single tesla. The record was broken at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) at Florida State University.


The event marks a possible new direction for direct current magnetic fields. The previous record was topped by half a tesla. The record breaking magnet is smaller than a large glass and looks like a short stack of flat discs wrapped in thin metal strips. It weighs only 390 grams.

"This is indeed a miniaturization milestone that could potentially do for magnets what silicon has done for electronics," he said. "This creative technology could lead to small magnets that do big jobs in places like particle detectors, nuclear fusion reactors and diagnostic tools in medicine," National MagLab Director Greg Boebinger said.

Freezing magnets

For the magnet to reach optimal intensity it needs to be kept just a few degrees above absolute zero. Its strips are made from a rare earth barium copper oxide (REBCO). The magnets size is a massive advancement on MagLab’s strongest continuous magnet which is constructed from a super cold cold superconductor with a more typical electromagnet to operate.

The whole setup weighs more than 35 tons. The massive and powerful magnet uses niobium-based alloy instead of REBCO. The new magnet celery gets around an old recurring problem of conventional superconducting circuits; when these circuits heat up they can suffer from a sudden jump in resistance called quench.

No insulation!

In these cases any flaw that drops the conduction below super interrupts the flow. To avoid this the REPCO doesn’t have any insulation so the current running through it can jump to another section without a break. "The fact that the turn of the coil are not insulated from each other means that they can share current very easily and effectively in order to bypass any of these obstacles," says materials scientist David Larbalestier, who explains more about the magnet's design in the short video below:

The tightly wound coils also help dissipate the heat which can interfere with the flow of electrons. This clever design that results in a tight and efficient superconductor that can achieve unbelievably strong magnetic fields. The new magnet is still just a working model and can only reach its record level for a short time.

But it will provide the base for future designs of powerful magnets. These Kinds of magnets have broad application in research from medical diagnostics to particle physics research. "We are really opening a new door," says engineer Seungyong Hahn, who came up with the new magnet's slim design. "This technology has a very good potential to entirely change the horizons of high-field applications because of its compact nature."

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