Scientists have created the world’s most powerful superconducting magnet, capable of generating a record magnetic field intensity of 45.5 tesla. Only pulsed magnets, which sustain fields for a fraction of a second at a time, have achieved higher intensities.
Materials scientist David Larbalestier and his collaborators at the US National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) in Tallahassee, Florida, ran intense electric currents through coils made of a cuprate superconductor to generate magnetic fields with low energy consumption. The resulting field strength exceeded that of energy-hungry resistive magnets — which don’t use superconductors — used by state-of-the-art magnet labs. It also surpassed conventional superconductor magnets, and ‘hybrid’ superconducting–resistive magnets (see ‘Record-breaking magnets’). The results were published 12 June in Nature1.
Previous cuprate-based magnets have been too fragile for use in technological applications, but the novel design should be able to sustain fields of up to 60 tesla, Larbalestier says. Thousands of researchers take their samples to magnet facilities such as the NHMFL every year, to conduct experiments with higher-intensity fields than can be achieved in a typical lab.