A global team of scientists has announced plans to build the world's strongest magnet.
The Hahn-Meitner Institute
in Berlin has joined forces with the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
and Florida State University
to develop the $10.5m hybrid magnet which will be used for "neutron scattering" experiments.
When finished in 2011, the new high-field magnet, which is based on the Magnet Lab's Series-Connected Hybrid concept, will be housed at the Berlin Neutron Scattering Center.
The device will produce a magnetic field between 25 and 30 tesla, more than half a million times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field.
According to the boffins, the device will be the world's strongest magnet for neutron experiments, eclipsing the 15-tesla system presently at the Hahn-Meitner Institute.
"Part of the challenge in science is figuring out how to maximise resources, " said Mark Bird, interim director of the Magnet Science & Technology division at Florida State University.
"We cannot always afford to bring the tools and techniques to the magnets; sometimes we have to bring the magnets to the tools to advance the science."
The lab's Series-Connected Hybrid combines copper-coil "resistive" magnet technology in the magnet's interior with a superconducting magnet, cooled with liquid helium, on the exterior.
The copper-coil insert is powered by an electrical current, while the superconducting 'outsert' conducts electricity without resistance as long as it is kept colder than 232 degrees Celsius below zero.
By combining the power supplies of these two technologies, engineers can produce extremely high magnetic fields using just one-third of the power required by traditional magnets.
The version that Magnet Lab engineers will build for the Hahn-Meitner Institute is different in that its bore, or experimental space, will be conical to allow neutrons to be scattered through large angles.
It also will be horizontal, as opposed to the traditional vertical bore of most high-field magnets.
These modifications make the magnet ideal for neutron scattering experiments, which are among the best methods for probing atoms to better understand the structure of materials.
"With this major piece of equipment, the Hahn-Meitner Institute itself becomes a magnet, pulling in researchers from around the world to Berlin," said Thomas Rachel, parliamentary state secretary of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.