This week at the lab, Peng Chen starts a new job at the Applied Superconductivity Center (ASC), where he will contribute to developing a groundbreaking magnet with bismuth-strontium-calcium-copper-oxide (Bi-2212), a promising high-temperature superconductor.

Chen's new job sounds a lot like his old job: building a groundbreaking magnet at the ASC with Bi-2212. The main difference is that last week, Chen was still a graduate research assistant. This week, he is a postdoctoral research associate, having graduated Saturday from Florida State University (FSU) with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.

"I can relax a little bit," laughed Chen, who has put in long hours over the past several months writing and revising his thesis.

In addition to designing and building world-record magnets used by scientists from across the globe, the MagLab has an important educational mission. This includes training early-career scientists like Chen. It's not by accident that undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs make up 40 percent of the lab's staff.

Since arriving here from China five years ago, Chen has experienced an intense, hands-on education among the team building a Bi-2212-based, high-field, high-homogeneity nuclear magnetic resonance magnet dubbed the Platypus. ASC Director David Larbalestier, who is Chen's advisor, said Chen has shown a lot of grit in the face of tough technical problems that come with building a first-of-its-kind instrument. In fact, ASC is hoping to get a patent out of a fully superconducting joint Chen built for the Platypus.

"He combines an engineering viewpoint with a strong desire to understand what he is doing, which makes his approach to complex technical problems very valuable," said Larbalestier, who placed the blue doctoral hood on Chen during his graduation ceremony to signify his former student’s new status.

Chen said he is looking forward to his new role on the team.

"In the transition from student to postdoc, you have more freedom," said Chen. "It's not only about your dissertation; you have more choices to do different aspects of the project and to collaborate with other teammates to support them — take more responsibility. I have a feeling I will do more and broaden my duties."


Text by Kristen Coyne / Photo courtesy of Peng Chen.

Using a novel method of winding the magnet coil that dispensed with the traditional insulation, the MagLab reached another world record and laid the foundation for more to come.

No insulation? No problem! In fact, by challenging the conventions of magnet making, MagLab engineers created a first-of-its-kind magnet that has only just begun to make records.

Tapping into MagLab expertise on superconductors and cryogenics, a research team built a novel neutron scattering device that is more efficient and produces better data than previous techniques.

A new type of superconducting cable was successfully tested at high field at the MagLab, opening the door for the next generation of accelerator magnets operating at 20 teslas (T) and above.

New calculations that reveal the workings of a new type of high-field research magnet will aid in future magnet designs.

One of the best tools for testing new materials for the next generation of research magnets is a MagLab magnet.

Reduced-size prototype coils for the 32 T all-superconducting magnet have been successfully tested. The results include the generation of 27 T, which is a record for superconducting magnets.

On the road toward a groundbreaking all-superconducting magnet, the MagLab successfully tests a prototype that is already in the record books.

Global partnership is an exciting first step.

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