Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Innovative measurement technology: our planet is "attractive" enough

22.07.2005


The Earth’s magnetic field is strong enough for some kinds of analyses – this opens up new opportunities for carrying out examinations under difficult conditions

Where x-rays no longer manage to see, magnets allow us to look inside. Patients know what that means: they lay down in the "tube" surrounded by an enormous electromagnet, the so-called MRI scanner. Such large pieces of equipment artificially create strong magnetic fields which enable doctors to take the pictures inside the patient’s body which they need for their diagnosis. Now scientists from the Research Centre Jülich, a Helmholtz Association institution, and the RWTH Aachen University of Technology have extended the spectrum of magnetic field scanning. Because they have discovered that the Earth’s natural magnetic field is strong enough for some examinations. And this closes a gap. Because it makes measurement with magnetic fields outdoors and under difficult conditions possible for the very first time. Although the applications will not initially be used in the field of medicine, they will make chemical analyses possible, such as when examining oil directly at source.

20,000 times weaker



When measuring with magnets, researchers use a natural phenomenon, namely that nuclei spin like a top, a property appropriately called "spin". The spin can be focused in a magnetic field to generate typical signals, so-called nuclear magnetic resonance. And it is this that opens up a wide range of insights for scientists into the composition and structure of matter. As a rule, they need very strong artificially produced magnetic fields for such work.

In experiments with the inert gas xenon, Helmholtz scientists were now able to show that under certain circumstances they can also use laser light to influence the spinning movement of the nuclei. In these cases, a weak magnetic field is already powerful enough for the analysis. Often, the Earth’s natural magnetic field is even strong enough. By comparison, the Earth’s magnetic field is around 20,000 times weaker than the field strengths used in these large pieces of equipment.

From inside Earth to solar wind

As Dr. Stephan Appelt from the Research Centre Jülich explains, a wide and diverse range of application options are conceivable. Besides chemical analyses outdoors and at hardly accessible places, geophysical examinations are also imaginable. "For example, we could survey the Earth’s magnetic field with the highest precision," explains Appelt. "Furthermore, we could also look into the Earth, so to speak." That would make it possible to gain a better understanding of the earthquake risks along local fault lines, such as the San Andreas Fault in California or of volcanism. A third field of application would be in astrophysics. "Nuclear magnetic resonance in the Earth’s magnetic field might also make it possible to measure the solar wind," believes Appelt. This wind is made up of particles ejected by the Sun and deviated by the Earth’s magnetic field – the Northern Lights, "Aurora Borealis", are a side-effect of this.

Finally, another possible area of application is also the measurement of very weak magnetic fields inside patients. This would enable doctors to produce detailed pictures for the examination of diseased organs. "It’s conceivable that contrast media could be used that contain xenon," explains Dr. Wolfgang Häsing from the Research Centre Jülich. "Patients could inhale these contrast media or they could be injected into them." All that would then be needed to carry out an MRI scan is a small additional magnetic field – the patient would be spared from the confines of the narrow tube. In fact, they would hardly notice the examination, because xenon is already used in medicine today, namely as an anaesthetic.

| alfa
Further information:
http://www.helmholtz.de

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>