By Kathleen Laufenberg
HiPER is a 9-tesla magnet, and only the second one of its kind. The first is in Scotland; its Scottish builders came to the lab in 2012 to help put the MagLab's new HiPER together.
The Scots nicknamed HiPER — a scientific tool so large it would fill an average living room — their "witches hat" machine because of the 29 black, hat-sized cones that cover parts of it. You won't find such cones on other MagLab instruments. This unique magnet has these strange cones to absorb pulses of radiation. Essentially, the cones are the scientific equivalent of soundproof insulation in a music studio: They absorb echoes from microwaves that would otherwise skew the test data. The wild-looking HiPER is a type of Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) machine.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
EPR instruments detect the presence of unpaired (or free) electrons in a material. While free electrons are often short lived, they play critical roles in many processes, including photosynthesis and oxidation.
HiPER is actually an acronym-like scientific reference to this wild-looking machine's ability to use high-performance electron resonance to search for free electrons in a material. Until then, Dr. Likai Song, who is both a medical doctor and a physicist, is experimenting with the magnet for his research. Song is part of a large, collaborative effort to create a vaccine for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.