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RN25 - 50 years of Superconducting Magnetsfor Physics Research and Medicine

The Success Story of 50 years of Superconducting Magnets
for Physics Research and Medical Applications

Herman ten Kate

CERN, Physics Department, Switzerland;
and University of Twente, the Netherlands

Abstract - It took about 50 years from the discovery of superconductivity in mercury in 1911 to the first technical superconducting wires made of NbTi and Nb3Sn suitable for constructing superconducting magnets that could provide magnetic fields beyond the practical limits of water cooled electromagnets with iron cores. Ever since we have seen very successful applications of superconductivity in magnets for physics research, medical diagnostics and big science. Fully superconducting laboratory magnets and hybrid magnets up to 25 and 45 tesla respectively serve physics, chemical and biological research. Whole body Magnetic Resonance Imaging magnets provide medical diagnostics in hospital. Synchrotron radiation facilities use photons to resolve the structure of matter and particle accelerators complexes and their huge detectors are key for elementary particle physics. Fusion reactors for electricity production would not be possible without superconducting magnets for plasma confinement.

High field magnets are the most successful applications of superconductivity by far and stand for more than 90% of the 4‐5 billion euro market of superconductivity.
Presented are essential achievements in understanding superconductors that enabled most exiting magnet applications as well as an outlook to what the next 100 years may bring...

Keywords - First superconducting magnet, (high-field) superconducting magnets,  flux pinning, critical currents, Nb-Ti, A15 superconductors, MgB2, HTS, LHC, dipole and detector magnets, ITER, NMR, MRI, magnetic levitation

Plenary presentation (3-H-7) given on September 21, 2011 at SCC
Submitted to ESNF February 03, 2012; accepted February 12, 2012. Reference No. RNP25; Category 6.