A lab in China’s southern city of Hefei recently announced the launch of the world’s most powerful magnet.
Only 33 millimetres in diameter, the modestly sized object is a million times more powerful than the Earth’s core, and strong enough to lift an aircraft carrier.
The project’s results come after making a significant “technical breakthrough”, said scientists working at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
A report published in the South China Morning Post indicated the super magnet could aid in several industries, including semiconductors, computing and nuclear.
The astounding powerful 45.22 Tesla magnet or 452 200 gauss (the unit of measurement of magnetic induction) supplants the US-developed National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) for the world’s top spot.
The MagLab, located in Florida, had previously held the record of 45 Tesla (450 000 gauss) since 1999, although it briefly hit the 45.9 Tesla mark in 2019.
Creating and maintaining a facility that could support such a strong magnetic field requires an immense amount of energy. The MagLab facilities on Florida State University (FSU) campus alone use 56 million watts of energy every minute, accounting for roughly 7 percent of Tallahassee’s total energy consumption.
However, scientists and researchers believe the potential insight and knowledge that could be gleaned from these facilities is worth the significant investment.
Like the MagLab, the Hefei Magnetic Field Laboratory is classified as a “hybrid magnet”, which takes advantage of superconducting coils of wire to create a powerful field.
Once the maximum potential of the magnetic field is realised, the coils are coupled with resistive magnets – called “bitter discs” – which optimise output. Unlike the superconducted wire, bitter discs are energy intensive and therefore expensive to operate.
In 2016, Chinese researchers at the Hefei Laboratory conducted several experiments that led to the identification of carbon nanotubes in a novel breakthrough.
Their observation has the potential to further other fields, particularly in the semiconductor industry where engineers are looking to replace silicon to develop superfast, energy-efficient computers.
Despite China building its magnetic field laboratory significantly later than many global players, it only took a decade to become a leader in the field, said Professor Kuang Guangli, speaking with local news media.
The professor, who also functioned as lead scientist on the project, said he and his team made a breakthrough that accelerated progress but did not offer any further details, according to Interesting Engineering.