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12 years ago

UK Super Magnet

A revolutionary magnet ten times stronger than normal could see MRI scanners become hand-held, and electric motors miniaturised. The process, developed at the University of Cambridge in the UK, uses a superconducting material and requires no current, simply to be super-cooled.

The development is the work of Dr Tim Coombs, who says a magnet just a few a millimetres across could lift enormous weights.

[Dr Tim Coombs, Scientist]:
"This magnet could potentially hold up a reasonably sized truck.”

A spin-off company is now talking to a number of potential customers including the shipping industry and the military.

[Dr Tim Coombs, Scientist]:
"You could use it in an MRI machine, you could use it in a wind turbine, you could use it in a particle accelerator. We could use it in something much, much more mundane, like for instance a bearing for a fly wheel. There are many, many different uses for something which is 10 times as strong as anything else.”

The magnets are made of an alloy that only becomes magnetic when cooled with liquid nitrogen which will keep the development in industrial applications for now although it won't limit its use, says Coombs.

[Dr Tim Coombs, Scientist]:
"Well, when you bear in mind that what we use to cool it is as cheap as the milk that you buy from your local supermarket then you can get some idea of how cheap cooling it is. When also you bear in mind that we use nitrogen as an everyday thing in the lab and its relatively easy to use.”

Dr Coombs says the advantages of size and power of his magnets could allow the development of machines that have not previously been possible, including a 10MW generator for wind turbines with no gearbox.