We are constantly learning about the capabilities of and research on the uses of magnets, magnetic force, and magnetic fields. From helping moths establish a migration pattern to keeping astronauts safe during interplanetary flights, magnet science is nothing short of impressive. Read more about what magnetic knowledge we gained in 2018 in technology, in space, and in the environment.
Magnets in Technology
In 2018, we learned that researchers created a material that acts as a magnetic diode. It works like an electrical diode but is slightly different—the new diode can transfer a magnetic field to an object, but not the other way around. What does this mean? Practically, it has the potential to be used in electric devices that currently used symmetrically-coupled magnetic elements, which include electric motors, transformers, and MRI machines!
Just when we thought Apple had done it all, they introduced a new version of their tablet that caught our attention—the 2018 version of the iPad Pro, which contains 102 magnets. That’s right, 102 MAGNETS. These magnets are used to hold the Apple Pencil stylus to the side of the tablet and to attach the Smart Keyboard Folio. You can’t tell the magnets are there, however. While they’re distributed mainly along the edges of the tablet, you can only see them by using a magnetic field viewing film!
In the world of data storage, a study on big data revealed that the amount of data being recorded increases 30 to 40 percent per year, but the capacity of modern hard drives is increasing at less than half the rate of the data being recorded. So, the study showed us that magnetic tape—packaged most commonly in cartridges and cassettes—is a cost-effective and reliable data storage system alternative to hard drives. While data can’t be accessed as quickly on tape, it writes over two times faster on tape than on disk.
Magnets in Space
Magnets. Moons. Magnetic fields. In 1996, scientists discovered that Jupiter’s ocean moon, Europa, has a magnetic field. Today, scientists are working on a mission set to launch in 2022 that will study the habitability of the moon! Dr. Margaret Kivelson and her team first discovered the magnetic field with a magnetometer they invented to measure the magnetic force of Jupiter’s magnetic field.
We found out that scientists are currently conducting research on how a magnetic dipole could protect astronauts from galactic and solar cosmic rays while on missions lasting longer than twelve months. The main goal of the research is to protect astronauts from solar wind since it produces ionizing radiation. Extended exposure to this radiation can cause severe health effects, including skin burns and acute radiation syndrome.
Did you know that Mars isn’t able to produce a magnetic field because its internal dynamo is incapable, making it much more susceptible to harmful cosmic radiation that strips away its atmosphere and surface water? Researchers suggest the magnetic field disappeared over a span of 100 million years. There are multiple theories on why scientists believe the field went missing: one is convection, and the other is a large impact on the surface of the planet.
Magnets for the Environment
You may be asking, “Why would mushrooms and magnets have anything to do with one another?” Scientists recently discovered that iron-oxide coated microbots made from mushroom spores could help remove heavy metals, including lead, from contaminated water. These metals could cause serious health problems and have resulted in almost half a million deaths each year when exposed to them through water. An external magnetic field moves the microbots around; once in contact with the pollutant, the attached mushroom spores pull the heavy and toxic metals out.
Last year, using an outdoor flight simulator, scientists discovered that Bogong moths use magnetic fields to navigate. While this has been found to be true with certain animal species, this is the first evidence of this particular phenomenon in an insect species. Scientists believe that the moths integrate visual cues and magnetic signals, much like a hiker using both a compass and landmarks!
As a way to combat oil spills, scientists discovered that the use of magnetic nanoparticles can be used to remove up to 99% of the oil mixed into water. Amines are added to magnetic iron nanoparticles, then the positively charged amines locate the negatively charged oil droplets and bind. Once that occurs, magnets can be used to attract and remove oil droplets. After the oil particles are removed, the nanoparticles can be cleaned and reused for other tasks.