Japanese Scientists Made a Magnet So Powerful That It Blows Stuff Up Every Time They Turn It On

Tuesday, 25 September 2018 - 11:27AM
Tuesday, 25 September 2018 - 11:27AM
Japanese Scientists Made a Magnet So Powerful That It Blows Stuff Up Every Time They Turn It On
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Image Credit: Pixabay composite created by Outer Places
Ms. Frizzle on The Magic School Bus warned us that sometimes with science you have to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. It looks like physicists at the University of Tokyo's Institute for Solid State Physics took that advice to heart. Led by physicist Shojiro Takeyama, the team has been working with a megagauss generator to create one of the largest controllable magnetic fields of all time. Not to bury the lede here, yes they succeeded, but the only problem is that every time they fire up the equipment it causes an explosion that lights up the purpose-built laboratory like the 4th of July.


The magnetic field was created using electromagnetic flux-compression. By pushing 3.2 megajoules of energy into a electromagnetic coil, the scientists forced it to collapse on itself, which compressed the magnetic field and caused the teslas (a unit of magnetic flux density) to spike to 1200. The generated field lasted for 100 milliseconds, which is not a very long time relatively speaking, but is actually more impressive than it sounds. "Decades of work, dozens of iterations and a long line of researchers who came before me all contributed towards our achievement," said Professor Takeyama in a statement. "I felt humbled when I was personally congratulated by directors of magnetic field research institutions around the world." According to LiveScience, during a recent test the insanely powerful field actually blew open the heavy doors designed to contain it. Takeyama says that he thinks they can push it to 1800 teslas if they go for 5 megajoules, but to remain safe, they are slowly building up to that point.

"With magnetic fields above 1000 T, you open up some interesting possibilities," Takeyama said. "You can observe the motion of electrons outside the material environments they are normally within, so we can study them in a whole new light. This research could also be useful to those working on fusion power generation by confining plasma in a large ring called a tokamak to extract energy from it. This requires a strong magnetic field in the order of thousands of Tesla for a duration of several microseconds. This is tantalizingly similar to what our device can produce."

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