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Maglab Renewed With A $184 Million Federal Boost

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The National Science Foundation announced Monday that it has renewed support for the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, with an investment of $184 million over the next five years.

The largest MagLab facility is at Florida State University, which is home to the strongest research magnets in the world. It also includes facilities at the University of Florida and the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“This announcement comes as a strong endorsement for the importance of high magnetic field research in America’s science portfolio,”  Greg Boebinger, National MagLab director, said in a press release Monday. “The true strength of the MagLab comes from the scientific impact of our users from across the nation, users who access these magnets to make discoveries of new materials, find energy solutions and explore the science that illuminates life itself.”

The new funding represents nearly a 10-percent increase over the previous five-year award, bringing the NSF’s total investment to $867 million.

“NSF is proud to support a facility that has broken — and holds — many world records in magnet technology,” Anne Kinney, NSF assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences, said in the release.

The MagLab facility at FSU has the world’s strongest continuous high-field, helium-cooled magnet at 45 teslas and a pulsed magnet that can provide a magnetic field of 100 teslas, some 2 million times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field. For comparison, a refrigerator magnet has about .01 teslas.

The MagLab also has the most powerful magnet for nuclear magnetic resonance, which is used for biological, chemical and materials research.

Among the research breakthroughs at the MagLab, researchers have improved the performance of quantum bits, or qubits, which are key components that could lead to the eventual development of quantum computers.

The MagLab research has also yielded an innovative way to assess the severity of strokes, leading to better diagnoses and treatment for patients.

More than 1,700 scientists and researchers use the MagLab facilities over the course of year. And MagLab officials said the new funding will be used in part to provide new scientific instrumentation to more fully realize the potential of the magnetic research.

Although the NSF provides the bulk of the funding, the state also supports the research, with the Legislature providing $12 million last year. And other funding comes from individual researchers.

FSU officials said over the next 20 years, the MagLab is projected to generate about $2.4 billion in economic activity and more than 25,000 jobs in Florida.

“This one-of-a-kind facility is an important part of Florida State University and the entire Florida economy,” said FSU Vice President for Research Gary Ostrander. “This announcement means that the world’s most prestigious magnet lab will remain headquartered right here at FSU in Tallahassee, anchoring our university’s preeminent science and research efforts and facilitating discoveries that could change our world.”

The NSF’s announcement culminates a multi-year process that began in 2012 when MagLab officials prepared to defend the project in a national competition. But in 2014, NSF announced it would accept a renewal proposal, rather than seeking to open up the project to a new nationwide contest.