Just as cell phones and computers use materials that did not exist 50 years ago, today’s materials research will enable tomorrow’s technology. One of the best ways to understand new materials is to study the behavior of the material’s electrons using a strong magnetic field—such as those available at the Los Alamos Pulsed Field Facility (PFF), which is part of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory User Program.
"Our magnets are like microscopes that show us how electrons are moving and interacting," says PFF Director Ross McDonald. Sometimes when electrons act together in unison, they give rise to technologically important properties such as high-temperature superconductivity, where electricity flows without loss, or novel magnetism, potentially useful for quantum computation. To facilitate this important research for the international community, the PFF designs, builds, and maintains some of the world's strongest magnets and pulsed power capabilities—while also supporting its own research program. “Studying the behavior of some of the smallest subatomic particles requires some of the largest pulsed power infrastructure in the world,” says McDonald. An endeavor of this scale, one that is helping explore the materials that will define the future, is only possible at a national laboratory. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the PFF.