The strongest-ever controlled magnetic field was activated in Tokyo earlier this year, showering a containment room with sparks for its brief lifespan: 1/1,000th of a blink of an eye.
Why it matters: Powerful magnetic fields allow scientists to study the movement of electrons, enabling research into fusion, a future source of clean energy.
The field was measured at 1,200 teslas — a unit of magnetic field strength — which is about 400 times the strength of an MRI, according to IEEE Spectrum.
- It was created by compressing a much weaker field into a tiny space at an extremely fast rate.
- Shojiro Takeyama, the University of Tokyo professor in charge of the experiment, told IEEE that the iron cupboard that housed the mechanism was built to withstand the effects of a 700-tesla magnetic field — only three-fifths the strength of the field that was actually created.
- The cupboard’s door was broken, but no one was hurt, he said.
The magnetic field’s 100 microseconds of existence may seem fleeting, but it’s actually a major record, according to a statement from the University of Tokyo.
- Powerful fields generated by lasers typically last for nanoseconds — or 1/1,000th of a microsecond.
- A Russian experiment created a stronger magnetic field in 2001, but it couldn’t be controlled. The 2,800-tesla field blew up the lab’s equipment.
Go deeper: Watch the fireworks as the University of Tokyo field is activated (YouTube)