Magnet Development and Applied Superconductivity

The Magnet Development and Applied Superconductivity Group (or Magnet Group, for short) provides the means and infrastructure for the B (Magnetic Field) of the B/T ratio (where T = temperature), which is the significant figure of merit in Condensed Matter Physics.

The group has a long and distinguished history which goes back to at least 1945 and, arguably, much earlier. Nowadays it has a dual function: (1) to provide high fields for CMP and other disciplines; (2) to carry out research in magnet technology. It is, in effect, an engineering group in the nation’s largest physics department.

The work of the group concerns the generation of high magnetic fields. An important sub-set of this technology is superconductivity. In 1911, Kammerlingh Onnes discovered low temperature superconductors. As recently as 1986 Bednorz and Müller discovered the high temperature superconductors. Both have a rôle in the generation of high magnetic fields. In general, superconductors operating at higher temperatures are desirable, but they do give rise to new problems which need to be addressed.

The very highest fields do not use superconductors. Coils wound using special conductors, which are continuously evolving, are energized for periods of 10 ms or so. Fields of 60 to 70 tesla are possible this way. Awesome forces, hostile cryogenic environments and high electrical voltages demand constant development to keep abreast of the requirements of the UK’s top solid state physicists.

Our research rôle in the Magnet group is to investigate the cutting edge of high field engineering, with considerable support/interaction from the industry that was a spin-off from the group’s activities 40 years ago (Oxford Instruments Ltd.).