The rules of attraction

A collaboration between FloridaStateUniversityand superconductor manufacturer SuperPower has led to a new world record for a magnetic field created by a superconducting magnet.

The record 26.8 tesla was achieved at the university’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in late July.

The magnet’s test coil was wound by New York-based SuperPower with a high-temperature superconductor called yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO). The magnet lab’s AppliedSuperconductivityCenter worked with the company to develop the superconducting and mechanical properties of YBCO and other materials.

‘This test demonstrates that YBCO high-temperature superconducters being made now for electric utility applications also have great potential for high-magnetic-field technology,’ said David Larbalestier, director of the AppliedSuperconductivityCenter.

‘This conductor technology could be used to make all-superconducting magnets with fields that will soon exceed 30 tesla. This far exceeds the 22 to 23 tesla limit of all previous niobium-based superconducting magnets.’

Although scientists have been aware of the properties of YBCO and its potential for magnet technology for 20 years, the material has only become commercially available in the long lengths needed for magnets in the past two years.

YBCO is capable of generating high magnetic fields at very low temperatures, and scientists at the magnet lab claim that it could one day produce magnetic fields up to 50 tesla.

As well as helping to advance scientific research, the new magnet could help to reduce operating costs because they require little or no electrical power once they are brought up to full field. Resistive magnets on the other hand, which are primarily used for physics research, are more expensive to operate because a great amount of electricity is needed to power them.