Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physicists set 'speed limit' for future superconducting magnet

12.02.2007
A research team led by a Northwestern University physicist has identified a high-temperature superconductor -- Bi-2212, a compound containing bismuth -- as a material that might be suitable for the new wires needed to one day build the most powerful superconducting magnet in the world, a 30 Tesla magnet.

The material currently used in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging machines in both hospitals and research laboratories -- a low-temperature superconducting alloy of the metallic element niobium -- has been pushed almost as far as it can go, to around 21 Tesla. (Tesla is used to define the intensity of the magnetic field.) There are no superconducting magnet wires currently available that can generate 30 Tesla.

"A new materials technology -- such as a technology based on high-temperature superconductivity -- is required to make the huge leap from 21 Tesla to 30 Tesla," said William P. Halperin, John Evans Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, who led the team. "We have shown that Bi-2212 could be operated at the same temperature as is presently the case for magnets made with niobium -- 4 degrees Kelvin -- and also achieve the stable state necessary for a 30 Tesla magnet."

The findings will be published online Feb. 11 by the journal Nature Physics.

"We are exploring nature's limitations, and our discovery has basic implications for the study of superconductors and for applications to magnetic resonance imaging," said Halperin. "The dream would be to have powerful magnets that don't require helium for cooling. Some day new materials might be discovered where this restriction is lifted, but it isn't possible at the present time."

A superconductor, when cooled to its appropriate temperature, conducts electricity without any resistance. Superconductivity first appears in Bi-2212 at a high temperature of 90 degrees Kelvin, but Halperin and his colleagues found that the stable state required in high-magnetic fields can be established only when the temperature falls below 12 degrees Kelvin. The team is the first to establish this limit for Bi-2212.

"Sometimes what seems to be bad can be good," said Bo Chen, lead author of the paper and a graduate student of Halperin's. "Our findings set a speed limit. If you go beyond this speed you may have trouble. Knowing the upper temperature limit is a kind of security."

"To create a 30 Tesla magnet, we need a superconducting material that can carry the required amount of electricity without blowing up," said Halperin. "We have found that the operating temperature for Bi-2212 must be below 12 degrees Kelvin. The good news is that this temperature can be reached by cooling the magnet with liquid helium. If we had found the upper limit to be 2 degrees Kelvin then the cryogenic requirements would be intractable."

MR imaging is widely used by hospitals for medical diagnosis, and scientists at universities, national laboratories and pharmaceutical companies use even more powerful MR technology to study DNA, proteins and other complex molecules. About a dozen labs around the country take advantage of the highest magnetic field now in use -- 21.1 Tesla, which produces a magnetic field 10 times larger than your average hospital machine. Increasing the field of the magnet even a small amount, from 21.1 to 22.2 Tesla, would increase the cost of the machine by two million dollars.

"A holy grail of the scientific community, as set out recently by the National Research Council, is to build a superconducting magnet of 30 Tesla," said Halperin. "In MR imaging, the higher the magnetic field, the higher the resolution, which provides scientists with more detail for analysis. A 30 Tesla magnet could drive significant advances in chemistry, biology and medicine."

Using MR techniques at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Fla., Halperin and his team studied Bi-2212, one of the "darlings" of superconductivity. To measure its properties, they put the rare isotope oxygen-17 into a crystal of Bi-2212, with the isotope acting as a probe, much like a fluorescent dye. They then determined the phase diagram of the material where superconductivity is stable, which showed high temperature and high magnetic field could not be achieved together.

"Now that we have this information about Bi-2212, the next question is, 'Can such a magnet actually be made?'" said Halperin. "I really don't know -- it depends on engineering and processing the materials to make them into wires. My fellow scientists and engineers will have to solve the materials problems, and they don't like to accept no as an answer."

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
23.02.2017 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars
22.02.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>