Massive magnet pulls 100,000X more than Earth's magnetic field

Oak Ridge National Laboratory this week spent $33.6 million for about 7,000 miles of metal to help build such a beast

ITER project
So you want to build a magnet 100,000-times stronger than the pull of the Earth's magnetic field, what do you need? Well, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory this week spent $33.6 million for 8,270 km of niobium tin strand and 4,795 km of copper strand (or about 7 miles total) to help build such a magnet. 

The materials, being supplied by Luvata Waterbury and Oxford Superconducting Technology are being used to build what's known as the Toroidal Field Magnets for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in at Cadarache, France.  Each Toroidal Field coil will weigh 360 tons.   

The US portion of the multi-nation ITER Project is hosted by ORNL and supported by the US Department of Energy Office of Science. The ITER Project is looking to ultimately build a burning fusion plasma experiment to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of 'clean' nuclear power.  

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The ITER's $15 billion plasma device will use the extremely powerful superconducting magnets that control the fusion process and help release vast amounts of heat that can be harnessed to generate carbon-free electricity, the researchers say. 

According to the US ITER Web site, because of the electrical charges carried by electrons and ions which make up plasma can - in principle - be confined by a magnetic field. Without such a field, the plasma's charged particles move in straight lines and random directions. They can strike the walls of a containing vessel, cooling the plasma and inhibiting fusion reactions. But in a magnetic field, the particles must follow spiral paths about the field lines. The charged particles in the plasma are confined by the magnetic field and prevented from striking the vessel walls. 

According to researchers, ITER's Toroidal Field Magnets will fill the plasma volume (approx. 1000 cubic meters or a little over 35,000 cubic feet) with a magnetic field roughly 100,000 times the Earth's magnetic field. 

The project is being designed and built by the ITER partners: the European Union, India, Japan, the  People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States. The first plasma test  is scheduled for 2016.

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