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

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>