Manufacturing Bits: Oct. 6

Magnetic mass spectrometers; world’s most powerful superconducting magnet; U.S. manufacturing consortium.

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Magnetic mass spectrometers
The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (National MagLab) has developed a mass spectrometer, based on what the organization claims is the world’s highest field superconducting magnet.

The instrument from National MagLab is called a Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometer. The mass spectrometer boasts a 21 tesla magnet, which is 45% more powerful compared to the lab’s previous FT-ICR magnet.

Tesla, or T, is the measurement of magnetic field strength. A typical magnet used in an MRI machine is 2 to 3 T. Superconducting magnets are made with superconducting materials.

National MagLab’s 21 tesla ICR magnet (Source:  National MagLab)

National MagLab’s 21 tesla ICR magnet (Source: National MagLab)

MagLab is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop magnet technologies for the scientific community. The lab’s facilities are located at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The organization consists of several units, including the Ion Cyclotron Resonance Facility (ICR). FT-ICR mass spectrometry is a technique that depends on magnets, which identifies the individual components in complex mixtures. FT-ICR technology is used for several applications, such as biology, environmental and petrochemical.

The lab upgraded the previous FT-ICR mass spectrometer to a new instrument. The 21 T system is now available for researchers. The upgrade to 21 T more than doubles the accuracy of measurements to ~50 parts per billion. “With 21 teslas, scientists will be able to see complex organic mixtures like proteomes, metabolomes and petroleum much more clearly than ever before,” said Chris Hendrickson, ICR facility director, on MagLab’s Web site. “And researchers will also be using this instrument for mapping contact surfaces in biomolecular assemblies.”

World’s most powerful superconducting magnet
In a separate announcement, MagLab recently broke the world’s record for an all-superconducting magnet.

Using traditional and novel superconducting materials, the magnet reached a field of 27 teslas. MagLab is also developing a 32 tesla all-superconducting magnet that will be stronger than any such magnet built to date. The 27 T field was 3.5 T stronger than a superconducting magnet currently operating in France and 1 T stronger than a unit built in South Korea.

This test coil helped set a new world record for superconducting magnets: 27 teslas. (Source:  National MagLab)

This test coil helped set a new world record for superconducting magnets: 27 teslas. (Source: National MagLab)

Superconducting magnets are made with superconductors, which can carry current without any resistance. But traditional superconductors can only operate in cold temperatures, which is around -460 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the most part, superconducting magnets have been made with niobium tin and niobium titanium wire. But these materials need liquid helium to stay cold, thereby preventing the industry from making more powerful superconducting magnets.

Now, researchers are planning to use a new material–yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO). YBCO is a high-temperature superconductor, which will enable researchers to make a 32 tesla magnet.

The high-temperature superconductor was re-spun into a tape-like form by SuperPower, a producer of second-generation high-temperature superconducting wire. Another partner on the project was Oxford Instruments, which constructed the coils.

When finished, the 2.3 ton magnet will feature around six miles of YBCO tape, formed into 112 disc-shaped pancakes. The new magnet will be ideal for users whose experiments require lower noise and longer running times than resistive magnets can offer.

U.S. manufacturing consortium
The University of Michigan will lead a U.S.-based consortium to identify new and emerging areas in advanced manufacturing.

The consortium is called MForesight: the Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight. The organization has been established by the NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). There are few details about which technologies the organization will pursue.

The industry partners in the group include 3M, Applied Materials, AstraZeneca, Boeing, Boston Scientific, Dow Chemical, Ford, General Motors, General Electric, GlobalFoundries, John Deere, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Proctor & Gamble, Rockwell Automation and Siemens.

The non-profit partners include Assoc. Public & Land-grant U, Brookings Institution, Info Tech & Innovation Foundation, LIFT/ACT Foundation, National Association of Manufacturers, National Defense Industrial Association and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

The academic partners include MIT, Ohio State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, University of Cincinnati, and the University of Pittsburgh.