Technology is progressing very rapidly. Medical devices spot cancer and other threats, while green technology supplies energy
for our increasing demand. But innovation doesn’t happen by itself.
It begins with fundamental research. This type of research is performed in high magnetic field laboratories. The European Magnetic Field Laboratory is an organization which unites institutes in
Nijmegen, Dresden, Grenoble and Toulouse. High magnetic fields are a very powerful research tool, as they reveal hidden properties of matter. All manner of materials can be explored, because in a high magnetic field all materials are magnetic. Imagine these magnets as a magnifying glass that allows you to look at materials on a subatomic scale. To generate these magnetic fields, huge machinery is needed. Sometimes the electrical power of a small city is concentrated in one magnet coil for a short amount of time. And this enormous infrastructure is used to measure tiny signals in small material samples. Europe is a major player in this field of research. There are only three other places like it in the world. The labs in Nijmegen in Grenoble generate static fields, which can be used several hours in a row. Whereas the sites in Dresden and Toulouse operate pulsed fields. Pulsed fields are about three times stronger than static fields, but only have a duration of a few milliseconds. The EMFL is involved in every stage of the process. From building the magnets and capacitor banks, to running the facility, conducting the experiment and verifying the scientific results. This requires the teamwork of engineers, magnet designers, technicians and scientists. Together, they are always pushing both scientific and technical boundaries. The EMFL provides free and open access to external scientists from all over the world. They come to discover new properties of
materials they are working on. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov got the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research on graphene, on which they did many experiments in EMFL magnets. Their work can lead to flexible touchscreens and many other applications we haven’t yet thought of. And what will the current research bring? Perhaps a new superconductor for lossless energy transport, or magnetic levitation trains? For sure high magnetic field research will bring many new scientific surprises. And who knows which new applications. EMFL research is not about quick results, it’s about great results. Results that will change the world.