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Explained: World's most powerful magnet, Central Solenoid, being shipped to ITER in France

Tulika Tandon

World's largest Magnet: Why in the News?

U.S Engineers have decided to ship the first part of the world's most powerful magnet called the Central Solenoid to France. This magnet would be used to help power the world's largest nuclear fusion reactor, ITER.

"The Central Solenoid, the largest of ITER’s magnets, will be made up of six modules," General Atomics mentioned in it's statement. Know all about the magnet and its uses here.

ITER receiving world's most powerful magnet:

Central Solenoid would be placed in the core of ITER which is the largest nuclear fusion reactor meaning 'the way' in Latin. This is being done to support an international experiment which is being performed jointly by 35 countries. 

The experiment aims to prove the feasibility of sustained nuclear fusion in creating energy.

John Smith, director of engineering and projects at General Atomics said, "The central solenoid is the largest and most powerful pulsed electromagnet ever constructed."

About Central Solenoid:

  1. The central solenoid is made up of six individual modules that will be stacked inside the center of the ITER reactor. 
  2. The entire magnet will be as tall as a four-story building
  3. It would weigh almost 1,000 tons
  4. When the central solenoid is completely assembled, it will be 59 feet tall and 14 feet wide.
  5. On its full capacity it can produce a magnetic field measuring 13 Teslas. This is almost 280,000 times stronger than Earth's magnetic field. 
  6. Thus it is the magnet strong enough to lift an aircraft carrier completely, that weighs around 100,000 tons.

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How does the World's most powerful magnet work?

  1. Every individual module is a large coil that contains almost 3.5 miles or 5.6 kilometers of steel-jacketed niobium-tin superconducting cable.
  2. The module is treated with heat in a furnace for many days or weeks to increase its conductivity further. 
  3. Hereafter, many cables are insulated
  4. Now the coil is wrapped giving it, it’s final shape, that is of Solenoid.
  5. "The massive field generated will require the supporting structure to withstand forces equal to twice the thrust of a space shuttle lift-off", General Atomics said in a statement.

Principle behind Strongest Magnet:

As per the Faraday's law of induction- “any amount of electricity passing through a wire generates a magnetic field perpendicular to the wire.” After this the wire is coiled into a circle, so the electric current produces a circular magnetic field. However, each coil increases the magnetic-field’s strength by many times. This creates a solenoid (by coiling a wire many times).

What is ITER?

ITER is one of the most ambitious projects of the world. It would be the first device to maintain fusion for long time periods and test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics needed to support the commercial production of electricity through nuclear fusion.

It has been designed to release small quantities of vaporized deuterium and tritium, into a large, doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber, known as a tokamak. 

35 participating countries include the entire European Union, the U.K., Switzerland, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the U.S. 

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