Scientists funded by the European Space Agency have measured the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field for the first time in a laboratory. Under certain special conditions the effect is much larger than expected from general relativity and could help physicists to make a significant step towards the long-sought-after quantum theory of gravity.
Just as a moving electrical charge creates a magnetic field, so a moving mass generates a gravitomagnetic field. According to Einsteins Theory of General Relativity, the effect is virtually negligible. However, Martin Tajmar, ARC Seibersdorf Research GmbH, Austria; Clovis de Matos, ESA-HQ, Paris; and colleagues have measured the effect in a laboratory.
Their experiment involves a ring of superconducting material rotating up to 6 500 times a minute. Superconductors are special materials that lose all electrical resistance at a certain temperature. Spinning superconductors produce a weak magnetic field, the so-called London moment. The new experiment tests a conjecture by Tajmar and de Matos that explains the difference between high-precision mass measurements of Cooper-pairs (the current carriers in superconductors) and their prediction via quantum theory. They have discovered that this anomaly could be explained by the appearance of a gravitomagnetic field in the spinning superconductor (This effect has been named the Gravitomagnetic London Moment by analogy with its magnetic counterpart).
Small acceleration sensors placed at different locations close to the spinning superconductor, which has to be accelerated for the effect to be noticeable, recorded an acceleration field outside the superconductor that appears to be produced by gravitomagnetism. "This experiment is the gravitational analogue of Faradays electromagnetic induction experiment in 1831.
Clovis J. de Matos | alfa
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