A breakthrough magnet design that could shed new light on nanoscience and semiconductor research, according to engineers at Florida State University's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, has been successfully tested. When the Split Florida Helix magnet is operational in 2010, researchers will be able to direct and scatter laser light not only down the center of the magnet, but also from four ports on the magnet's sides, while reaching fields above 25 tesla. Today's highest-field split magnet reaches 18 tesla; 1 tesla equals 20,000 times Earth's magnetic field.

With the new magnet, scientists will be able to learn more about the intrinsic properties of materials by shining light on crystals from angles not previously available in such high magnetic fields. Magnet engineers worldwide have been trying to solve the problem of creating a magnet with side access at the midsection, but they've had little success in higher fields. Since magnets are made by packing together dense, high-performance copper alloys and running a current through them, carving out empty space in the magnet's heart presents a huge engineering challenge.

Instead of creating a tiny pinhole as other labs have tried, the Florida team's design features four large elliptical ports crossing through the magnet's middle. The model's coil is made from a mix of copper-beryllium blocks and copper-silver plates. For more information, visit www.magnet.fsu.edu.