strongest magnet
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
June 11, 2024 ·  3 min read

Scientists blew up their lab after creating the strongest indoor magnet ever

In 2018, scientists at the University of Tokyo had an explosive achievement – quite literally. They created the strongest magnet ever, and it blew up their lab. This is how it happened. (1)

One of the Strongest Magnet Ever Blows Up Lab

Two years ago University of Tokyo researchers created the strongest magnet ever completely by accident. They then accidentally blew the doors right off of their lab. (1)

They created the magnetic field to test the material properties of a new generator system. The expectation was that their lab would create a field equivalent to that of approximately 700 Teslas. Instead, they ended up creating one that equaled 1200 Teslas. This is the strongest magnet ever created in a controlled, indoor environment. (1)

Not the Actually the Strongest Magnet Ever

In 2001, Russian scientists created a magnetic field equivalent to 2,800 Teslas. Unlike the scientists at the University of Tokyo, this magnetic was not controlled and it blew up their equipment. (2)

The Japanese team’s magnet lasts 1000 times longer than the Russian one – about one-thousandth of the time it takes to blink. That being said, reaching magnetic fields of over 1000 Teslas has advantages. (2)

“With magnetic fields above 1,000 Teslas, you open up some interesting possibilities,” says physicist and professor Shojiro Takeyama. “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 and explore new kinds of electronic devices. This research could also be useful to those working on fusion power generation.” (2)

Read: Eight go mad in Arizona: how a lockdown experiment went horribly wrong

Fusion Power

Fusion power is important because it could be the best way to produce clean energy in the future. (2)

“One way to produce fusion power is to confine plasma — a sea of charged particles — in a large ring called a tokamak in order to extract energy from it,” explains Takeyama. “This requires a strong magnetic field in the order of thousands of teslas for a duration of several microseconds.” (2)

How it Works

The scientists used a technique called electromagnetic flux-compression to create the magnetic field. They essentially “squeeze” the magnetic field into a smaller size, creating a brief spike in its strength. (1)

This technique has been around since the 1940s, using TNT to create it. This caused a lot of destruction, was difficult to reproduce, and nearly impossible control. (1)

Now, they put a huge amount of energy (3.2 megajoules), which causes a weak magnetic field produced by a small coil to compress extremely rapidly, at a speed of about 20,000 miles per hour. When that coil bounces back it produces a powerful shockwave that destroys the coil and the generator. (1)

Takeyama’s team built an iron cage around the generator to protect themselves from the shockwave, however, it was only built for 700 Tesla strength, not 1200. The explosion blew the door right off of the enclosure. (1)

“Only 40 years ago, magnetic fields of the order of 1000 Tesla were only reported in extremely complicated and sometimes unreliable explosively-driven systems, without any of the sophisticated level of control,” the researchers concluded in their report. “Therefore, one can say without any doubt, that the present results represent the beginning of a new era in the quest of producing and using ultrahigh magnetic fields for solid state studies as well as for plasma fusion related experiments.” (1)

It will certainly be interesting to see what these researchers do next.

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