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Incredibly Powerful Magnet Ready for Use at Los Alamos Lab

Los Alamos National Laboratory expects researchers from around the world to use its new facility for high magnetic field science.

After 10 years of work, lab officials announced Tuesday that the world's most powerful pulsed, non-destructive magnet is ready for use at 85 tesla.

A tesla, a measuring unit for magnetic fields, takes its name from Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American whose inventions formed the foundation of our alternating current system.

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Researchers can combine very low temperatures with a powerful magnetic field to examine materials at a nanometer scale, a billionth of a meter. Expected applications include studying large organic molecules, such as drugs.

"It's a tremendous scientific and engineering accomplishment," said Alex Lacerda, who leads the National High Magnetic Field-Los Alamos Center. "It's like a very powerful microscope that allows you to zoom into any material."

The magnet, which has achieved 87.8 tesla and is expected to reach 100 tesla in time, is the most powerful of its kind in the world, Lacerda said.

According to the laboratory, a generator which came from an abandoned nuclear power project in Tennessee supplies 1.4 billion watts of power and is itself the largest magnetic power source, with enough power to supply all of New Mexico for a couple of minutes.

The generator produces power that is stored, then pulsed, to create the powerful magnetic fields.

Researchers already are lining up to use the equipment, but most of the work right now is being done by the lab, Lacerda said.

"It's like a new car," he said. "You want to drive it around a little bit before driving it to California."