Holy Crap, A Monster Magnet

Florida is more commonly known for the new and interesting reasons its citizens get themselves arrested for. But no longer! The 27th state of the union now possesses the world's most powerful split magnet! Wait, what's a split magnet?

A split magnet is comprised of two sets of densely packed copper alloy coils through which a huge electrical current is run (in this case a whopping 28MW, making it the second highest power loading magnet on Earth, behind Florida State University's 45 Tesla hybrid magnet). This creates a massive 25 Tesla magnetic field focused precisely at the centre of the innermost coil, called the bore, where the test material is placed. The FSU split magnet's field strength beats out the previous, French-built record of 17.5 Tesla set in 1991 by 43 perfect. In addition to the 25T, the $US2.5 million Florida Split generates such intense heat that researchers need to pump in 9463 litres of water per minute in order to keep it functioning.

The other thing that's different? FSU researchers have installed four relatively large elliptical viewing ports. Given that other split magnets have viewing ports that are barely larger than the diameter of a pencil, these ports are downright opulent. But they do come with a price: structural strength. It's like cutting holes in a sheet of steel. The more (and larger) holes you cut from it, the more structural strength the sheet loses. When also subjected to 500,000 times the force of the Earth's magnetic field (aka 25 Tesla), a pencil-width hole is more than enough to become a structural liability. In fact, before this magnet was completed, inclusion of large ports capable of withstanding these massive electromagnetic forces was considered an engineering impossibility. The FSU team had to design or outright invent many of the magnet's components and have them custom fabricated.

The split Florida-Helix is used to test numerous materials and elements looking for ones that exhibit unique and unexpected properties, like atoms that actually become more observable when they're subjected to the high temperatures and pressure found between the copper coils.

"Discoveries made here will enable researchers to improve their materials and use them to make improved products such as solar cells or semiconductors for the next generation of computers," Dr Eric Palm, one of the researchers, told the BBC.

[NHMFL Wiki, BBC News, Florida State University, Florida State University, University of Florida (PDF)]