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Cambridge Team Breaks Superconductor World Record

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the light-as-a-feather dept.

United Kingdom 73

An anonymous reader writes University of Cambridge scientists have broken a decade-old superconducting record by packing a 17.6 Tesla magnetic field into a golf ball-sized hunk of crystal — equivalent to about three tons of force. From the Cambridge announcement: "A world record that has stood for more than a decade has been broken by a team led by University of Cambridge engineers, harnessing the equivalent of three tonnes of force inside a golf ball-sized sample of material that is normally as brittle as fine china. The Cambridge researchers managed to 'trap' a magnetic field with a strength of 17.6 Tesla — roughly 100 times stronger than the field generated by a typical fridge magnet — in a high temperature gadolinium barium copper oxide (GdBCO) superconductor, beating the previous record by 0.4 Tesla."

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Stronger? (3, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47350029)

I'm impressed, but I'm not sure about even the most theoretical engineering applications of a little more field strength. Higher heat tolerance is easy to grapple with, but this an improvement that's hard to imagine practical applications for.

Re:Stronger? (5, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | about 3 months ago | (#47350091)

Stronger magnetic fields could also be used to reinforce antimatter containment, although they might not prevent an impending warp core breach.

Re:Stronger? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350237)

Stronger magnetic fields could also be used to reinforce antimatter containment, although they might not prevent an impending warp core breach.

Of course not. But if you could just reverse the polarity, you'd hopefully deionize the plasma.

Re:Stronger? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47350613)

Of course not. But if you could just reverse the polarity, you'd hopefully deionize the plasma

And once you've done that, you can re-route it through the main EPS grid and send it straight to the deflector array.

Re:Stronger? (2)

synaptik (125) | about 3 months ago | (#47350821)

Do you have any idea what that would do to the tachyon flux?

Re:Stronger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47351069)

Not precisely without access to my primary computer core, but I assume it's nothing an inverse baryon field won't handle.

Re:Stronger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47351517)

If you don't cross-couple the inverted baryonic field to the ground state of the tachyon field you run the risk of rupturing the dilithium intermix chamber.

Re:Stronger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47351585)

What you should do is frag blast the vent core.

Re:Stronger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47352193)

Silly, all of you.

What's the point of depolarizing the plasma? You'd still have to do something with all those nasty little ions. Just dump the entire mess to the EPS grid and reroute all non-essential lines to dump out the warp drive. Just watch your plasma attenuation to avoid ripping subspace apart by letting the coils go out of phase or hitting subspace's harmonic frequency.

For extra credit try and regulate the resulting warp drive field so that it helps buttress the reactor chamber's confinement and inertial fields.

Re:Stronger? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350417)

Field strength limit of a superconductor limits the current density it can carry before it loses superconductivity. Higher field strength limit means the same superconductor cross section can carry more current, or alternatively you need less superconductor for a given application. In some situations that can also affect what temperature is used too, as typically the colder the superconductor gets, the higher its field limit. A lot of high temperature superconductors that would superconduct with liquid nitrogen (~77 K) are used with liquid helium ( 4 K) because they can conduct more current that way. How useful this is to geometries and mechanical situations relevant to practical superconductor applications might be a different story though, at least in the short-run.

Re:Stronger? (1)

nmr_andrew (1997772) | about 3 months ago | (#47352301)

NMR/MRI? Better magnetic "mirrors" and/or "lenses" for focusing beams in things like the LHC or even just an electron microscope? Those are a few applications. OK, in NMR the highest field magnets are already >20T, but those have two major differences from this. First, they're wound coils that focus the highest field in a small area, where this appears to be basically a puck; presumably properly optimizing the geometry (and fabrication process to get there) will allow higher fields. Second, and perhaps more importantly, this superconductor operates at liquid nitrogen temperatures - no more need for liquid helium for cooling would be a HUGE benefit.

Finally, although I've read the Cambridge press release and it wasn't mentioned anywhere, I assume this is a world record for a high temp superconductor.

LHC Magnets (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 4 months ago | (#47355341)

Better magnetic "mirrors" and/or "lenses" for focusing beams in things like the LHC or even just an electron microscope?

Actually it is not the focussing magnets for the LHC but more the bending magnets. Doubling the field strength will roughly double the energy we could reach. However you have to be able to make several tens of kilometres of these magnets for that which means they have to be incredibly stable otherwise the machine will not work. Currently we use 9.6T bending magnets - this is no where near a world record but stability is very important.

Re:Stronger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47352765)

MRI. Bigger magnetic fields in a smaller space would almost always be useful (I can't think of a case where they wouldn't be, but I'm hesitant to say "always"). Speaking from experience, all other things being equal, I'd rather have more tesla in a smaller space, for all sorts of reasons.

Levitating Frogs (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 4 months ago | (#47355395)

this an improvement that's hard to imagine practical applications for.

Well you could using this field strength to levitate frogs [youtube.com] which would make for a cool lecture demonstration!

Re:Levitating Frogs (1)

Jeremi (14640) | about 4 months ago | (#47366521)

Well you could using this field strength to levitate frogs which would make for a cool lecture demonstration!

Don't kid yourself, man. This technology is going to be militarized into a frog-railgun ASAP. If a biblical rain of frogs is the only language the North Koreans understand, then by God that's what we'll give them.

Well (4, Funny)

MRe_nl (306212) | about 3 months ago | (#47350031)

I'm off to buy roughly 101 fridge magnets, and you'll be seeing me in the Beer Book of Bets shortly.

Re:Well (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47350047)

That's either incredibly funny, or woefully ignorant....I'm going to go with... funny.
Lol

Re:Well (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350391)

You just need one, super cooled. Put it on the freezer.

Re:Well (1)

Cramer (69040) | about 3 months ago | (#47352807)

Multiply by ten, twice, and you'll be closer to the "3 ton" field. I use hard drive voice coil magnets, and most of those don't have 60lbs (1/100th of 3 tonnes) of force. And those are some of the strongest magnets to which consumers have access. The "standard" fridge magnet holding force is at best ounces (grams).

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47353485)

For a given field shape and piece of metal, the force will scale as the square of the magnetic field strength. A magnet with a 100 times weaker field than a magnet that can apply 3 tonnes of force to a piece of metal would apply only about 0.3 kg-f (~3 N). But when changing the shape it depends on the field strength times the gradient in field strength, and for pieces of metal a lot bigger than the magnet it depends on how far the field overlaps with the metal, etc. Plus the 3 tonnes of force causing strain in this thing is not comparable to the amount of iron a similar strength and sized magnet would pick up.

ummm...nope (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 3 months ago | (#47350065)

>> a strength of 17.6 Tesla â" roughly 100 times stronger than the field generated by a typical fridge magnet ...only if you have the kind of fridge magnets that once in place are then permanently inseperable from your fridge.

Re:ummm...nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350129)

For info, how about we correct it and say it's about 1,000 to 10,000 time stronger?

Or for the more interesting, it's about 100 times weaker than the strongest field ever produced (using explosives).

Re:ummm...nope (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about 3 months ago | (#47350133)

I dont know about you but I use old neodymium magnets from hard drives as my fridge magnets and they are about 1.2T to 1.7T so roughly 100x my fridge magnets lol

Re:ummm...nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350171)

Those things will leave marks on your fridge, even through paper, but that note isn't going to budge.

Re:ummm...nope (1)

disposable60 (735022) | about 3 months ago | (#47350269)

Err, can you math (or do I fail understandment)? 1.7*100 = 170. 1.7*10 = 17, so 10x.

Re:ummm...nope (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about 3 months ago | (#47352901)

You are right, my math does not work before the proper amount of coffee is added. lol

Re:ummm...nope (1)

jovius (974690) | about 3 months ago | (#47350299)

Umm yes. It's a fridge magnet, not a magnet that attaches to a fridge.

Re:ummm...nope (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#47350397)

Which would be odd, seeing as how in US parlance 'fridge magnet' does indeed mean a magnet intended to attach to your fridge, typically containing advertising or cute sayings, or holding things like sheets of your kid's art up.

Per wiki a typical fridge magnet is 5 mt, or .005 Tesla. So this experiment is more like 3000X as strong as a fridge magnet.

This thing is 10X as strong as most of my 'fridge' magnets, but then I like to play with neodymium ones.

Going by my experience, their 'fridge magnets' would hold to a fridge very well without requiring excessive strength to pull off. Most of mine you have to think about it a bit.

Oh, and 16T is enough to levitate a frog. [wikipedia.org]

Re:ummm...nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47351127)

Oh, and 16T is enough to levitate a frog. [wikipedia.org]

16T with a strong gradient in a small space, as a constant magnetic field will not levitate something diamagnetic like a frog. The levitating force is the gradient times the field strength, so you need both to be pretty high.

Per wiki a typical fridge magnet is 5 mt, or .005 Tesla.

Fridge magnets range over a wide variety of strengths, and while it is useful for Wikipedia to give a rough estimate, it shouldn't be interpreted as the limit of their range. I've had cheap advertising fridge magnets that went form not being able to hold of a sticky note to ones that can hold up a stack of crumpled receipts or cardboard. And the nature of such magnets makes their max strength slightly difficult to measure as their field strength drops off so fast from their surface.

Re:ummm...nope (1)

jovius (974690) | about 3 months ago | (#47352747)

I see that my poor attempt about a magnet that attracts fridges didn't catch very well.

Re:ummm...nope (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350357)

Small, cheap non-rare earth permanent magnets can be pretty strong, up to a sizable fraction of a Tesla. Fridge magnets tend to be many poled, so the strength drops off quite rapidly from the surface of the magnet, to the point the strength of the field you measure might depend on the size of the hall sensor you use and its housing. That said, most of them are weaker than 0.1 Tesla.

Re:ummm...nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350461)

According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , a refrigerator magnet has 5mt, so 17.6T would be 3520 times as strong.

Fuck BETA! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350073)

The fucking owners of /. ratcheting it up a notch, this morning landed again on beta, despite for not asking it.
Than the clicker to go back to classic did not work...
I was like WTF, they now need extra scripts or what to make that trip back to the old...
About a minute or so, the page reloaded and the link work as it is supposed too.
I think I was just subject of an experiment, very much like the one on farcebook, forced to look at the vomit called beta...
The message is, beta is coming, resistance is futile
You can mod me off-topic or whatever you want but I think this tactics we are witnessing here is despicable at best
Just tell WHY WHY, really WHY????

Re:Fuck BETA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47355155)

Its been set up that way just to annoy people who are too stupid to create their own account and log in.

Awesome! Totally awesome! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350089)

Magnetic levitation perpetual motion hovercars will be in production any minute now!

Shielding (2)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#47350109)

One of the hazards that long duration space travellers will face is radiation. The Earth's magnetic field draws incoming particles to the poles, thus protecting us. Could these powerful magnets be utilized on spacecraft to provide a similar function, drawing incoming particles to a sacrificial target or an area of the spacecraft that is hardened against radiation?

Re:Shielding (3, Informative)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 3 months ago | (#47350341)

One of the hazards that long duration space travelers will face is radiation. The Earth's magnetic field draws incoming particles to the poles, thus protecting us.

Miles of atmosphere between earthly peeps and space stops most of it. Earths atmosphere provides equivalent protection of about 33 ft of water.

Re:Shielding (1)

disposable60 (735022) | about 3 months ago | (#47350519)

Perfect! Wrap the ship in a 33-foot water blanket, wrapped in a skin of high-strength magnets.
Now you have a water supply once you land ... except that on Mars, you still need the blanket and magnets as that planet has (relatively speaking) no magnetic field and nearly no atmosphere.

Figure out how to re-start the magnetic dymano before trying to restore an atmosphere, else the solar wind will strip it away again.
/ Earth and Venus have strong magnetopsheres, Mars does not. The gas giants are too far out and too massive to notice the wind.

Re:Shielding (1)

disposable60 (735022) | about 3 months ago | (#47350543)

Dymano? urgh. Preview only helps if you actually READ what you tpyed.

Re:Shielding (1)

JDeane (1402533) | about 3 months ago | (#47352045)

I think there was some research into restarting planetary cores.... Here is a video of it in action.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Re:Shielding (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47350827)

very interesting idea, I was looking at this issue before thinking something similar to the ways that ships have bars of iron fixed to them so that the bars decay before the hull. Its not an apple or apples comparison but the end goal is the same, save the ship/crew by sacrificing a small part

Re:Shielding (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 3 months ago | (#47351377)

I was looking at this issue before thinking something similar to the ways that ships have bars of iron fixed to them so that the bars decay before the hull. Its not an apple or apples comparison but the end goal is the same, save the ship/crew by sacrificing a small part

So you're saying we should wrap the spaceship in a layer of crew members to save the remaining crew from radiation? Maybe that explains the Reavers' actual reasons for their ship accoutrements.

Re:Shielding (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47352745)

depends... who are we using as the shield?? can we start with the politicians and lawyers??? in that case yes... yes i am

Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350131)

This is a major victory for traditional American conservatives.

Re:Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350177)

In related news, ISIS declared an Islamic state...

Re:Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350365)

And fools like you see no difference between the two.

Wrong metric (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 3 months ago | (#47350175)

While I'm sure that this will this is quite an accomplishment, this doesn't seem to be a superconductor world record, just a world record that involved a superconductor. A world record for a superconductor would be one with unprecedented stability or superconductivity closer to room temperature than ever before.

Re:Wrong metric (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47355263)

Most practical applications of high temperature superconductors today have to deal with current limits, where exceeding a certain current density creates a magnetic field above the limit of the superconductor and causes it to lose the superconducting ability. This can happen at any temperature, but the limit is usually higher for lower temperatures. The result is a project makes trade-offs between operating temperature, current limit, and costs, where you can trade one for the other, and an improvement to any one of those three can be used to improve others in some situations. Also higher and stronger flux pinning is useful for dealing with more subtle effects that include things acting like resistance or improving use in magnetic levitation.

Figures don't add up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350179)

3 tonnes / 100 times as strong as a typical fridge magnet.

Maybe fridge magnets are going downhill, but I don't remember ever possessing one I could hang 30kg off.

Re:Figures don't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350603)

I think that while the magnetic field strength is 100x a strongish fridge magnet the force you can stick goes as field ^2

High stakes game of physics gambling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350199)

Reading the paper itself, [iop.org] the only reason they achieved this result was by gambling on a sample with enough purity to hold the magnetic force. They tried two other samples and failed. We won't be seeing any applications of this result until they can figure out enough process improvements to make the 33% success rate better.

It's worth noting that this solenoid research was funded by Boeing, so one might assume that an impressively powerful solenoid that operates at ~100K would be extraordinarily useful for making a missile that can turn on a dime.

More like 3400 fridge magents (1)

Pontiac (135778) | about 3 months ago | (#47350211)

a typical fridge magnet is about 0.005 Tesla

Neodymium–iron–boron magnets are about 1.2 Tesla

Re:More like 3400 fridge magents (1)

Pontiac (135778) | about 3 months ago | (#47350301)

16 T – magnetic field strength required to levitate a frog

Re:More like 3400 fridge magents (2)

QilessQi (2044624) | about 3 months ago | (#47350773)

From now on I demand that all /. articles describe a magnetic force in units which express the number of frogs that it can levitate.

Powering down? (1)

gregor-e (136142) | about 3 months ago | (#47350275)

How did they power down that experiment? If they let the temperature rise until it drops out of superconductivity, it'd explode. Or did they just load magnetic field until it burst and chalked up the maximum as a new record? That's almost enough to make magnetic munitions - shells that explode on impact and also pack an EMP wallop.

Re:Powering down? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350375)

Directed energy weapons!

On second thought, a directed "jet" of magnetically propelled metal is horrifying.

Captcha: Hellfire

Re:Powering down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350607)

Yes. They just let it explode. If only they had called you first.

Re:Powering down? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47353437)

How did they power down that experiment? If they let the temperature rise until it drops out of superconductivity, it'd explode. Or did they just load magnetic field until it burst and chalked up the maximum as a new record? That's almost enough to make magnetic munitions - shells that explode on impact and also pack an EMP wallop.

You can read what they actually did in the science article. Slashdot didn't link it, but there is a link in the first linked article. They did warm the samples to watch how the field changed and at higher fields the samples "cracked".

Wrong symbol (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 3 months ago | (#47350369)

Boron is B, Barium is Ba...

Re:Wrong symbol (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 3 months ago | (#47350503)

gadolinium barium copper oxide (GdBCO) superconductor

Boron is B, Barium is Ba...

Worse, the mistake showed up in the press release from Cambridge. I guess their editors are about as good at Slashdot's!

Re:Wrong symbol (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350557)

You will find that in the field these materials are referred to as "YBCO, GdBCO etc etc" with only the rare earth as the full element. This is not wrong. HAve a look at the original paper which is freely available. http://iopscience.iop.org/0953-2048/27/8/082001 [iop.org]

Re:Wrong symbol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47352625)

Copper is "Cu", not "C" (which stands for carbon).

Re:Wrong symbol (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47350739)

Nope. It's common in superconductor that when abbreviating to use ??BCO.

SO, it's not Cambridge being as bad a slashdot editors, it's more like a slashdot reader being like a slashdot reading and posting shit they know nothing about to support the grandiose complex.

Re:Wrong symbol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47351793)

And copper is Cu, but that isn't the point, they aren't using element symbols. Just like LDPE doesn't have any phosphorus or deuterium in it typically, in this case BCO isn't a chemical formula but an initialism based abbreviation. There are a lot of abbreviations in chemistry that use a mix of element symbols and other abbreviations, especially when some really common thing is mixed with a less typical element.

Re:Wrong symbol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47352649)

Boron is B, Barium is Ba...

Carbon is C and I love ya.

I know Cambridge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47350677)

It is a small city next to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the Charles river. Thanks for sharing the link.

4 forces (1)

HughJazz (3715809) | about 3 months ago | (#47350825)

Electromagnitism is usually considered the best understood of the four forces but the lack of real progress in room temperature superconducting suggests we have a way to go to understanding even that. It's plausible its not possible but if we really understand EM then the mathematics for its impossibility should exist.

Re:4 forces (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47351655)

Even if our understanding of electromagnetism on the fundamental level was complete and exact, that doesn't mean we can necessarily predict the result in any situation. Superconductors involve the interaction of a lot of particles, often in messy moderate strength interaction (as opposed to really weak or really strong interactions that are easy to simplify the math for). There is more to understanding the system than just he parts.

We understand how logic gates work pretty well, but you can construct large CPUs and other devices from basic logic gates that take a lot more to understand and still find ways to surprise even the people who created them or end up having bugs, etc. For that matter, you could make a computer out of electromagnetic relays using just principles of basic, classical electromagnetism, then ask if the program in its magnetic memory is going to halt...

A ton/tonne is a unit of mass (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 3 months ago | (#47352163)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

If you want to express force in conceptually simple terms, you should convert it to elephant pulls. Or Schwartzneggers.

Re:A ton/tonne is a unit of mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47352521)

As opposed to this Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] .... the kilogram-force, aka kilopond, is exactly defined, along with the metric ton-force, even if neither is an SI unit.

Re:A ton/tonne is a unit of mass - wrong (2)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#47353009)

no, long ton and short ton (what is meant in common speech) are units of force. in the UK (long) 2240 avoirdupois pounds, in the USA(short) 2000.

Metric ton is unit of mass

Re:A ton/tonne is a unit of mass (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 3 months ago | (#47354791)

When it comes to measuring magnetic field strength, I only understand the numbers of bones it can crush in an average youtube video. Given that this unit of measure has not yet been named, I propose the "Tesla," just to provide a maximum amount of confusion.

60, 85 or P85? (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 3 months ago | (#47353503)

The same power as 17 Teslas in a golf ball, I wonder what range you get out of one of those.

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