A team from Florida State University just turned magnetism "up to 11," setting a new record for the world's strongest resistive magnet. The project even took on a name that would embody pushing boundaries -- Project 11. The phrase refers to an iconic line in This is Spinal Tap: "turn it up to 11," and the idea that anything can be pushed beyond its traditional limits.
So how high did the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (aka the MagLab) push resistive magnetism? The new record comes in at 41.4 teslas. It dethroned a three-year reign by a Chinese magnet that had 38.5 teslas.
Resistive magnets require DC power to operate, and to set a record, MagLab's magnet required 32 megawatts of DC power. Exactly how strong is 41.4 teslas of force? Well, you'd need more than 4,000 of your strongest refrigerator magnets to achieve the same strength.
"Resistive magnets are the bread and butter of our DC Field Facility, and the demand of scientists sometimes exceeds supply," said Greg Boebinger, director of MagLab. "With the Project 11 magnet, we asked our engineers to ‘turn it up a notch’ and see what they could accomplish. This new brute delivers and will enable scientists to make discoveries that lead to better materials and technologies and deepen our understanding of how our world works."
In total, the MagLab team spent nearly three years and $3.5 million in research funding on Project 11. The new project certainly pays off; this success brings the current tally of world records held by MagLab to 16. MagLab contains more than just one project, hence the high success rate for setting the bar high. The fleet of magnets includes: resistive magnets like Project 11 made of copper and silver; superconductive magnets; and hybrid magnets, which combine the designs of the aforementioned magnet types.
The lab also boasts a 45-tesla magnet which is the world' strongest continuous-field magnet. The hybrid magnet is kept to a chilly 1.8 Kelvin (or -271 centigrade / -456 degree Fahrenheit). Check out the video below for a better look at how this hybrid magnet works.
While the MagLab continues to push boundaries, the improvements made are gradual. Engineers with the lab repurpose parts and creative improvements rather than spend chunks of cash on flashy devices.
"This larger magnet allows us to use 50 percent more coils," said magnet designer Jack Toth. Toth oversaw the team of dozens of engineers, technicians and support staff on Project 11. "That enabled power to be distributed more efficiently within the magnet and reach a new record with the same materials."
Project 11 succeeded in the presence of stiff competition from more established machines as well, noted Mark Bird. Bird works as the director for MagLab's Magnet Science and Technology Division.
"This new magnet levels the playing field in size,” he said in an interview with the university newspaper, "but our superior technology allows us to reach ‘11.’"