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Tag: Engineering

DC Circuits

Watch this video to see how direct current works.

Potato Launcher

An up-close view of a favorite Open House demo, carbo-loaded with information on how the pneumatic potato launcher works.

How Capacitors Work

Capacitors can store electrical energy and discharge it quickly, powering things like flash bulbs and starter motors.

How DC Motors Work

DC motors make things like appliances and power tools work by converting electrical energy to mechanical energy. Find out how.

How Electromotive Force Works

EMF, or electromotive force, refers to the voltage created by a battery or by a changing magnetic field. Counter EMF, also called Back EMF, is a related phenomenon that we will illustrate in this animation.

How Ignition Coils Work

Conventional automobiles burn gasoline in an internal combustion engine and convert that energy into motion. But first a spark is needed to ignite the fuel mixture. This animation shows how a 12-volt battery generates the high voltage required to create such a discharge.

How Research Electromagnets Work

Take a journey into the center of a one of our magnets to watch an experiment on graphene, one of many things scientists study at the MagLab.

How Van de Graaff Generators Work

Used originally to charge particles in atomic accelerators, Van de Graaff generators are now used mostly to educate students about electrostatics. See how they generate the static electricity that can make your hair stand on end.

How Research Electromagnets Work (Cómo funcionan los electroimanes de investigación)

Take a journey into the center of a one of our magnets to watch an experiment on graphene, one of many things scientists study at the MagLab.

How Van de Graaff Generators Work (Cómo funcionan los generadores Van De Graaff)

Used originally to charge particles in atomic accelerators, Van de Graaff generators are now used mostly to educate students about electrostatics. See how they generate the static electricity that can make your hair stand on end.

How Ignition Coils Work (Las bobinas de encendido)

Conventional automobiles burn gasoline in an internal combustion engine and convert that energy into motion. But first a spark is needed to ignite the fuel mixture. This animation shows how a 12-volt battery generates the high voltage required to create such a discharge.

How Capacitors Work (Cómo funcionan los condensadores)

Capacitors can store electrical energy and discharge it quickly, powering things like flash bulbs and starter motors.

How Electromotive Force Works (Cómo funciona la fuerza electromotriz)

EMF, or electromotive force, refers to the voltage created by a battery or by a changing magnetic field. Counter EMF, also called Back EMF, is a related phenomenon that we will illustrate in this animation.

Alternating Current

Every time you plug something into the electricity in your house, you are utilizing the power of alternating current (AC.)


A capacitor is similar to a battery, but a few key differences make them crucial additions to many machines.

DC Motor

This simple direct current (DC) motor has been created by pairing a permanent magnet and an electromagnet. The permanent magnet is called a stator because it doesn’t move. The electromagnet is a spinning coil of wire and is often called the rotor. A battery is connected to the circuit, and a magnetic field is created when current flows through the wire. That magnetic field interacts with the field of the permanent magnet, and the coil turns until the two fields are aligned.

Van de Graaff Generator

The Van de Graaff generator is a popular tool for teaching the principles of electrostatics. You might remember it as the thing that made your hair stand on end. It’s now largely used for educational purposes, but it was invented by Robert J. Van de Graaff in 1930 to power early particle accelerators.

Faraday Motor

Just a year after electromagnetism was discovered, the great scientist Michael Faraday figured out how to turn it into motion.

Voltaic Pile

Italian scientist Alessandro Volta was the first to recognize key principles of electrochemistry, and applied those principles to the creation of the first battery.

Pixii Machine

This “magneto-electric machine” was the first to turn motion into electricity.


Transformers are devices that transfer a voltage from one circuit to another circuit via induction.

Arc Lamp

Arc lamps were the first type of electric light, so brilliant the lamps were used for lighthouses and street lights.

Ignition Coil

Start your engines and learn about the ignition coil, a key to operating your car.

Electrostatic Generator

Though simple by today's standards, the early electrostatic generators were a great milestone in humankind's understanding of electricity.

Kelvin Water Dropper

The legendary Lord Kelvin made electricity from water with his water dropper.


A galvanometer detects and measures small amounts of current in an electrical circuit.

Foucault's Disk

In 1855, a French physicist created a device that illustrated how eddy currents work.

Lodge's Experiment

Sir Oliver Lodge's experiment demonstrating the first tunable radio receiver was an important stepping stone on the path toward the invention of a practical radio.

Inductive Reactance

Like resistance, reactance slows down an electrical current. This phenomenon occurs only in AC circuits.

Tape Recorder

Two heads — or even three — are better than one when it comes to understanding how tape recorders harness electromagnetic induction.

Magnetic Core Memory

Magnetic core memory was developed in the late 1940s and 1950s, and remained the primary way in which early computers read, wrote and stored data until RAM came along in the 1970s.

Magnets from Mini to Mighty

If your knowledge of magnets ends with posting a to-do list on the fridge, add this to the list: Learn more about magnets! You can start here with a straightforward rundown of magnet types, uses and strengths, explained in a way that will help make the facts stick.

Cryogenics for English Majors

Fear not, right-brained friends: Science and art intersect in plenty of places, and this is one of them. Samuel Taylor Coleridge lends a hand as we explore cryogenics – how to get things fantastically frigid – and the fascinating element that makes it all possible.

Robert Bosch

Long before his name began gracing kitchen appliances, Bosch made improvements to the magneto that had far-reaching improvements in the automobile industry.

Lee De Forest

American inventor Lee De Forest was a pioneer of radio and motion pictures.

Heinrich Hertz

The discovery of radio waves, which was widely seen as confirmation of James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory and paved the way for numerous advances in communication technology, was made by German physicist Heinrich Hertz.

Karl Jansky

Karl Jansky, who discovered extraterrestrial radio waves while investigating possible sources of interference in shortwave radio communications across the Atlantic for Bell Laboratories, is often known as the father of radio astronomy.

Jack Kilby

The integrated circuit fueled the rise of microelectronics in the latter half of the twentieth century and paved the way for the Information Age. An American engineer, Jack Kilby, invented the integrated circuit in 1958, shortly after he began working at Texas Instruments.

Siegmund Loewe

Siegmund Loewe was a German engineer and businessman that developed vacuum tube forerunners of the modern integrated circuit.

Hans Christian Ørsted

A discovery by Hans Christian Ørsted forever changed the way scientists think about electricity and magnetism.

Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon was a mathematician and electrical engineer whose work underlies modern information theory and helped instigate the digital revolution.

William Shockley

William Bradford Shockley was head of the solid-state physics team at Bell Labs that developed the first point-contact transistor, which he quickly followed up with the invention of the more advanced junction transistor.

Werner von Siemens

In 1866, the research of Werner von Siemens would lead to his discovery of the dynamo electric principle that paved the way for the large-scale generation of electricity through mechanical means.

Nikola Tesla

Awarded more than 100 patents over the course of his lifetime, Nikola Tesla was a man of considerable genius and vision.

James Watt

The Scottish instrument maker and inventor James Watt had a tremendous impact on the shape of modern society.

Apple II Plus - 1976

Long before the iPhone, the iPod or even the Mac, there was the Apple.

Arc Lamp - 1876

Fire lighted the night for many centuries before humans discovered new ways to illuminate their lives.

Bell Telephone – 1876

Acoustics, variable resistance and allegations of foul play contribute to the exciting story of the invention of the telephone.

Bubble Chamber – 1952

To understand a bubble chamber, picture the long, white streak an airplane leaves in its wake.

Coaxial Cable – 1929

As more and more American households acquired telephones, the pressure was on to create a better cable to accommodate the increasing demand. Engineers Lloyd Espenschied and Herman Affel answered the call.

Davenport Motor – 1834

Odd though it seems today, when Thomas Davenport was selling one of the first electric motors way back in the 1830s, nobody was buying.

Edison Battery – 1903

Although it never quite measured up to expectations, the Edison battery paved the way for the modern alkaline battery.

Electric Range – 1892

From the Stone Age to today, the search is constantly underway for better, more efficient ways to cook food. Reflecting many of the advances in science and technology, the electric range has become a popular choice for homes and businesses.

Electrostatic Generator – 1706

Otto von Guericke's electrostatic machine evolved into increasingly improved instruments in the hands of later scientists. In the early 1700s, an Englishman named Francis Hauksbee designed his own electrostatic generator, a feat stemming from his studies of mercury.

Faraday Motor – 1821

Few inventions have shaped technology as much as the electric motor, but the very first version — the Faraday motor — didn't look anything like the modern motor.

Fluorescent Lamps – 1934

Compared to incandescent lamps, fluorescent lamps last longer, require less energy and produce less heat, advantages resulting from the different way in which they generate light.

Gauss-Weber Telegraph – 1833

Several years before the telegraph created by American inventor Samuel Morse revolutionized communications, two German scientists built their own functional telegraph.

Geiger Counter – 1908

Counting alpha particles was tedious and time-consuming work, until Hans Geiger came up with a device that did the job automatically.

Gold Leaf Electroscope – 1787

For centuries, the electroscope was one of the most popular instruments used by scientists to study electricity. Abraham Bennet first described this version in 1787.

Hydroelectric Power Station – 1882

The first hydroelectric power plant, known as the Vulcan Street Plant, was powered by the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Iconoscope – 1923

American inventor Vladimir Zworykin, the “father of television," conceived two components key to that invention: the iconoscope and the kinescope.

Leyden Jars – 1745

Because they could store significant amounts of charge, Leyden jars allowed scientists to experiment with electricity in a way never before possible.

Maglev Trains – 1984

The railroad industry began in the frontier days, magnetic levitation has moved it squarely into the space age.

Magnetic Core Memory – 1949

At the dawn of the computer age, magnetic core memory helped make data storage possible, and showed surprising staying power in a field where components are constantly being replaced by new and improved products.

Magneto – 1832

The magneto helped fire up the first generation of automobiles.

Magnetometer – 1832

The Earth, the moon, the stars and just about everything in between has a magnetic field, and scientists use magnetometers when they need to know the strength of those fields.

Magnetron – 1920

Although they have applications at the highest levels of scientific research, magnetron tubes are used every day by non-scientists who just want to heat their food in a hurry.

Marconi Radio – 1897

A number of distinguished scientists had a hand in the discovery of "wireless telegraphy," but it was the work done by Guglielmo Marconi that is credited with providing the basis of radio as we know it today.

Morse Telegraph – 1844

The man most commonly associated with the telegraph, Samuel Morse, did not invent the communications tool. But he developed it, commercialized it and invented the famous code for it that bears his name.

Oersted Satellite – 1999

Named in honor of Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted, Denmark’s first satellite has been observing and mapping the magnetic field of the Earth.

Oscilloscope – 1897

From the auto shop to the doctor's office, the oscilloscope is an important diagnostic tool.

Pacemaker – 1960

Many heads, hands and hearts contributed to the development of this lifesaving device.

Smoothing Iron – 1882

Although not as celebrated as many other scientific inventions, the smoothing iron has its own rich history of development stretching all the way from 400 B.C. to the present.

Stanley Transformer – 1886

Applying discoveries Michael Faraday had made a few decades earlier, William Stanley designed the first commercial transformer for Westinghouse in 1886.

Steam Condensing Engine – 1769

Few inventions have affected human history as much as the steam engine. Without it, there would have been no locomotives, no steamers and no Industrial Revolution.

Transatlantic Telegraph Cable – 1858

The main figure behind the first transatlantic telegraph knew very little about the science or engineering behind it, but was convinced that with it a fortune could be made.

Wimshurst Machine – 1880

In the modern world, virtually everyone is familiar with electricity as an accessible, essential form of energy.

Barlow's Wheel - 1822

English mathematician Peter Barlow devised an instrument in 1822 that built on advances from earlier in the century, including the invention of the battery, to create a very early kind of electric motor.

Galvanometer - 1820

A galvanometer is an instrument that can detect and measure small amounts of current in an electrical circuit. 

Rheostat - 1820

The rheostat was developed in the mid-1800s by Charles Wheatstone as a means of varying resistance in a circuit.

1775 - 1799

Scientists take important steps toward a fuller understanding of electricity, as well as some fruitful missteps, including an elaborate but incorrect theory on animal magnetism that sets the stage for a groundbreaking invention.

1830 - 1839

The first telegraphs are constructed and Michael Faraday produces much of his brilliant and enduring research into electricity and magnetism, inventing the first primitive transformer and generator.


The Industrial Revolution is in full force, Gramme invents his dynamo and James Clerk Maxwell formulates his series of equations on electrodynamics.

1980 - 2003

Scientists explore new energy sources, the World Wide Web spins a vast network and nanotechnology is born.

Make a Compass Activity

Compasses are actually very simple. If you ever forget which way is north, follow these steps to make one yourself.

Making Electromagnets

What do you get when you mix a battery, a bit of copper wire and a nail? One of the most important forces in science. Try it yourself and let the force be with you!


Directions for teaching a hands-on lesson on compasses in science class and in other subjects.

Electric Motors

Power up this hands-on lesson about electric motors.

Making a Circuit

Allow students' creativity to flow in this hands-on lesson on circuits.

Tuning Topological Properties of TaSe3 Using Strain

The electrical resistance of ring-shaped TaSe3 devices was measured in magnetic fields of up to 60 T and at temperatures down to 0.6 K. High-field experiments on these devices show that changes in the microscopic quantum mechanical behavior of electrons in TaSe3 can be controlled by tiny mechanical forces, suggesting a completely new route towards very responsive sensors and devices.

Cybersecurity in a Large-Scale Research Facility: The MagLab’s Approach

A specialized cybersecurity approach was developed to meet the needs of a user research facility.

"Test Coil Zero" on the Path to 40T

A recent test coil with more than 1300 meters of conductor successfully demonstrated a new winding technique for insulated REBCO technology and was fatigue cycled to high strain for hundreds of cycles. This is the MagLab's first "two-in-hand" wound coil and the first fatigue cycling test of a coil of this size, both of which are very important milestones on the path to a 40T user magnet.

High-Temperature Superconducting Tape Suitable for Magnets at 50 Teslas and Beyond

Recent measurements of superconducting tapes in the MagLab's 45-tesla hybrid magnet shows that the power function dependence of current on magnetic field remains valid up to 45T in liquid helium, while for magnetic field in the plane of the tape conductor, almost no magnetic field dependence is observed. Thus design of ultra-high-field magnets capable of reaching 50T and higher is feasible using the latest high-critical current density REBCO tape.

Heat-Treatment of Large Hadron Collider Nb3Sn Magnets

To increase the rate of particle collisions in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, new powerful magnets will soon be made from Nb3Sn superconducting wires. Here, researchers report a change to the heat-treatment temperature to optimize Nb3Sn superconducting magnet performance.

Tracking the Potential for Damage in Nb3Sn Superconducting Coils from the Hardness of Surrounding Copper

High field superconductor magnets greater than 10 T made from brittle Nb3Sn superconducting wires need special attention to their assembly, strength and endurance. This new study of damage in Nb3Sn superconducting wire from prototype accelerator coils built at CERN provides a path to designing better superconductor cables for the next generation of higher field accelerator magnets.

Bi-2212 High-Temperature Superconducting Test Coils up to 34T

High magnetic fields are essential for many exciting scientific and industrial applications including next-generation MRI, particle accelerators, fusion, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Here, a Bi-2212 high-temperature superconducting test coil demonstrated robust operation up to 34T, expanding the options for future magnet development pathways. 

Eminent Scientist to Join National MagLab

Lance Cooley, an expert in the field of applied superconductivity, will join the lab this summer.

MagLab Reclaims Record for Strongest Resistive Magnet

The new 41.4-tesla instrument reclaims a title for the lab and paves the way for breakthroughs in physics and materials research.

$1 Million Grant Will Advance Compact Particle Accelerators

The DOE effort foresees a slew of health, environmental and safety applications.

New Director Named for Applied Superconductivity Center

Lance Cooley brings cool plans for developing superconducting materials and magnets.

Grant to Launch Next-Generation of Superconducting Magnets

With funding from the National Science Foundation, scientists and engineers will determine the best way to build a new class of record-breaking instruments.

High-Performance Microscope Will Take Research to Next Level

State-of-the-art instrument will be used in materials and next-generation magnet research.

With mini magnet, National MagLab creates world-record magnetic field

The compact coil could lead to a new generation of magnets for biomedical research, nuclear fusion reactors and many applications in between.

New Magnet Design Aces First Test

The successful test of concept shows that the novel design, using a high-temperature superconductor, could help power tomorrow's particle accelerators, fusion machines and research magnets.

MagLab Awarded $1.5 Million to Develop Better Superconductors

Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will further research that will help make the next generation of high-energy particle accelerators.

Improving High-Temperature Superconductor Wire Performance

New research to understand how processing impacts bismuth-based superconducting wires could help power future magnets or particle accelerators.

NSF Grant Funds New 40T Superconducting Magnet Design

The world's next most powerful superconducting magnet will be designed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Low-Gravity Simulator Design Offers New Avenues for Space Research

As humanity continues its exploration of the universe, the low-gravity environment of space presents unusual challenges for scientists and engineers.

Mini Magnet Packs World-Record, One-Two Punch

Game-changing technology may hold the key to ever-stronger magnets needed by scientists.

How MagLab is Helping to Upgrade the World’s Largest Particle Accelerator

A team of MagLab scientists has been working on the superconducting wires for new electromagnets that will improve physics research at the Large Hadron Collider.

Beating the Heat Treatment Problem

Looking for ways to make better superconductors for the next-generation particle accelerators, a young scientist homed in on how they were heat-treated. He was getting warmer.

Replacing Rare Earths?

Using high-field electromagnets, scientists explore a promising alternative to the increasingly expensive rare earth element - neodymium - widely used in motors.

BiSCCO Breakthrough

MagLab experts fine-tuned a furnace for pressure-cooking a novel superconducting magnet. Now they're about to build its big brother.

Fields of Dreams

If engineers build stronger magnets, scientists promise they will come … and that discoveries will follow.

The Long Winding Road

Several materials are in the running to build the next generation of superconducting magnets. Which will emerge the victor?

Last modified on 10 August 2022