Magnets are the heart and soul of most intelligent machines that we use today and magnets are a gift of nature. Stories say that the first magnet was discovered accidentally by a shepherd in Greece in about 2,000 BC. The first artificial magnet was invented by an English physician Willian Gilbert in 1600, proving that the earth is one big magnet.
The past few centuries have seen so much work being done on the magnet that they now form a crucial element of our everyday electronics like televisions, computers, motors, and what not. Earth is a giant magnet, but its magnetic field measures only 0.00005 Tesla. The most powerful natural magnet known to man in the entire universe is the magnetic neutron star “magnetar” also called Soft Gamma Repeater 1806-20. It has a magnetic field of about a hundred billion teslas, dwarfing earth in comparison.
Learning from nature, humans have been trying to develop magnetic devices to aid the devices that form the basis of our lives today.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines feature superconducting magnets. This diagnostic equipment creates detailed images of internal body structures. They can also be used to trigger sensors, ensuring the security of doors, windows, and access points. Moreover, strong magnets are crucial in particle accelerators used for scientific research, such as in particle physics and nuclear research.
Strong magnets are used in metal fabrication processes, such as holding and securing metal pieces during welding, cutting, and machining operations. Acrylic adhesives and magnets are used in automotive assembly for bonding components and securing fixtures. Electronics benefit from acrylic adhesives’ ability to bond circuitry and screens, while magnets aid in mounting sensors and components.
In construction, acrylic adhesives bond architectural elements, and magnets offer temporary mounting solutions. Consumer goods, renewable energy systems, furniture, and art industries all leverage this combination for various purposes. They are also used in concrete or cement structures to create magnetic fixtures, temporary closures, or decorative elements.
Additionally, permanent magnets are used in various electric motors and generators to convert mechanical into electrical energy and vice versa. Magnets can be embedded in rubber or silicone materials to create flexible magnetic solutions, such as magnets for refrigerator doors or flexible magnetic strips. Moreover, magnets can be attached to plastic objects, creating magnetic closures, fasteners, or components for various products.
The strongest artificial magnet on the face of the planet was created by the researchers from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) at Florida State University, Tallahassee. The enormous hybrid magnet system went into operation in December of 1999. Standing at 22 feet tall, the magnet weighs 34 tons, with a magnetic field of 25 teslas. This field is half a million times stronger than that of the Earth and is enough to alter conventional electronic and magnetic behavior of many materials.
Further research into the field and the researchers at NHMFL have been able to achieve magnetic strengths of a crazy 100.75 Tesla, which is 2 million times as much as that of the earth. This field is strong enough to make anything float, and this does not only mean metals. The field is capable of levitating objects such as plastic or even strawberries. Reminds you of Magneto from the X-men? Well, that could happen for real, except that it can not be a person with a magnetic field this strong.
Have a look inside the facility that holds the world’s most powerful magnet, and learn more about how it works.