This week at the lab, a dozen elementary school teachers toured the MagLab’s High B/T Facility as part of a science conference on the University of Florida (UF) campus.
The teachers are participating in the Annual Florida Regional Junior Science, Engineering, and Humanities Symposium. Hosted by UF's Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, the symposium provides opportunities for high school students and K-12 teachers to visit UF's research facilities and meet and interact with scientists and engineers.
The teachers were eager to see science in action at the High B/T Facility, where scientists conduct months-long experiments at extremely high magnetic fields (that's what the "B" stands for) and extremely low temperatures (that's the "T"), environments that make this facility unique in the world.
Facility Director Neil Sullivan led the group through the lab with the help of Postdoctoral Associate Alessandro Serafin and Senior Engineer Naoto Masuhara. Serafin showed the teachers the "ultra-quiet shielded room" for one of the experimental areas, where he is laying the groundwork for an upcoming experiment on magnetic torque in a topological insulator. This follows a year-long experiment by a Wayne State University scientist.
Sullivan then explained the facility's helium cooling system, which uses helium-3, a rare helium isotope, and magnetic refrigeration to cool the sample to temperatures near absolute zero. "We are looking for people who are both scientists and plumbers," Sullivan said, pointing to the network of pipes and valves that regulate helium in the facility.
The last stop on the tour was the basement, where participants could see the concrete tripods that support and protect the magnets by dampening vibrations that threaten to raise the low temperatures needed for these experiments. "These tripods are 35 feet below ground," Sullivan explained. He added that there are additional measures in place above ground to protect the workspace from radio waves that would also increase molecular vibrations and the temperature of the sample.
The teachers left engaged and excited by the tour, snapping photos of a chalkboard full of calculations and drawings to show their students.
Text and photo by Elizabeth Webb