Physicists in Japan have created the strongest controllable magnetic field in recorded human history. Not only the strongest field ever, but the magnetic field created by scientists at the University of Tokyo was sustained for a longer period than any other comparable magnetic field. It reached such power that the field knocked the door to their lab off its hinges.
Four hundred times more powerful than an MRI, the magnetic field was created with a method known as electromagnetic flux compression. The field measured out to 1,200 teslas, a unit of magnetic measurement. While Russian scientists were able to create a magnetic field of an astonishing 2,800 teslas, their equipment blew up with the field.
“I designed the iron housing to endure against about 700 T,” says Takeyama to Spectrum IEEE. The door was in an iron cupboard prepared for an assault of this nature, so no harm was done beyond to any researchers. Since the machine created such a strong blast, bending and breaking an enclosure door, “next time I’ll make it stronger,” he says.
These sorts of machines are created for a very specific purpose: to create magnetic fields capable of studying solid-state physics. Fields this strong can help to study, at the nanometer level, devices like semiconductors.
“In general, the higher the field, the resolution of measurement becomes better and better,” Takeyama tells Spectrum.
The field created by physicist Shojiro Takeyama and his team lasted much longer than the Russian field, relatively speaking, coming it at about 100 microseconds—about one-thousandth of the time it takes to blink according to the University of Tokyo. Electromagnetic flux compression can generally reach levels of 1,000 teslas, and surpassing that number represents a crucial milestone for physics.
“With magnetic fields above 1,000 Teslas, you open up some interesting possibilities,” says Takeyama in a press statement. “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.”
“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,” he says. “This requires a strong magnetic field in the order of thousands of teslas for a duration of several microseconds. This is tantalizingly similar to what our device can produce.”
It can also make some pretty cool explosions. While it’s not as stable as, say, bis-oxadiazole, it could be far more useful in everyday society. As long as they get stronger doors.