A team of scientists at the MagLab, National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida, claims to have created the world’s most powerful continuous magnetic field ever created in the laboratory. The development has been described in a letter to the journal Nature, where it has been stated that the magnet can reach the strength of 45.5 teslas.
Teslas is the SI unit of measurement that is used for measuring magnetism. A conventional fridge magnet is 5 microTeslas whereas an MRI machine has a magnet worth 3 Teslas. A field of 16 Teslas is powerful enough to levitate a frog. The MagLab also is known as National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is known for its work with high-strength magnets.
For about twenty years, MagLab has had the world’s most powerful continuous magnetic field at 45 Teslas. As per the abstract by the team that describes its new magnet, the older super-magnets needed ‘the use of a 31-megawatt, 33.6-tesla resistive magnet inside 11.4-tesla low-temperature superconductor coils’ for functioning properly. However, parts of these superconductors were not stable, such as the Cooper pairs of electrons which meant that even these strong magnets had their limits.
David Larbalestier, the chief materials scientist at the Magnetic Field Laboratory, has told IEEE, ‘We’re running these in liquid helium, because the superconductivity gets stronger, the lower in the temperature you go. And what we want to avoid is the destruction of the superconductivity by the magnetic field.’
Although the new magnet is barely stronger than the previous record by the MagLab, the liquid helium approach does more than just allow MagLab to achieve a new record; it promises potential. The MagLab team is now working towards the possibility of a magnet that can offer 50 Teslas and claims that more powerful magnets are on their way. Larbalestier said, ‘This is a beachhead into the 50 Tesla territory. I think it clearly says the road to 60 Tesla … is, in principle, now open.’