This month, researchers at the Los Alamos National High Magnetic Field Laboratory reclaimed the world record from German scientists for the strongest magnetic field produced by a nondestructive magnet. Not content with this success, the researchers proceeded to break their own record the next day by creating a mind-boggling 97.4-tesla field — bringing them within spitting distance to the long sought-after 100 tesla goal. The Guinness Book of World Records verified the achievement, but maybe it should keep itself bookmarked just in case the researchers once again beat their own record (or those pesky Germans beat them to it).
To get some idea of how powerful these forces really are, consider that the Earth’s magnetic field is 0.0004 tesla. A junkyard magnet is one tesla. A medical MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is three tesla. And when the researchers qualify their achievement with the word “nondestructive,” this doesn’t mean that they commonly strive to make mighty magnets that wreak havoc on everything in their wake, but that magnets tasked with creating such great force often rip themselves apart in the process. Like a Frankenstein’s monster trying to open a can of 7UP with a sledgehammer, they just don’t know their own strength!
To what purposes could the ability to create such massive magnetic fields be applied? More scientific research, of course! The design of various materials and their control, investigation of microscopic phase transitions, and peering into the spooky secrets of the quantum world are just a few things you can do with a 100 tesla magnetic field. In a pinch, I suppose you could use a giant magnet for the age old aim of affixing things to other things or even picking stuff up, but the 1.4 gigawatt generator system’s energy bill would probably clean out your bank account in a few short minutes.
Those dinky refrigerator magnets advertising your local go-to pizza joint don’t seem so impressive now, do they?