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UMaine Gaining State-of-the-Art Magnetometer

Contact: Robert Meulenberg, (207) 581-2245 or Robert.meulenberg@umit.maine.edu

The University of Maine will by next summer have in place a state-of-the-art magnetometer with which it will be possible for faculty members in several science disciplines to perform high-resolution magnetic and electrical experiments.

The superconducting quantum interference device magnetometer, known as a SQUID magnetometer, will reach temperatures of 4 to 800 Kelvin (-450 to 980 degrees Fahrenheit) and magnetic field ranges of 0-7 Tesla (more than 200,000 times the magnetic field strength of the earth). UMaine’s instrument will be the only one of its kind in the state and one of few in New England.

The magnetometer will allow for sensitive experiments and analysis of materials such as nanoparticles, thin films, powders, wafers and single crystals, and will, for example, allow scientists to measure magnetic moments from samples that are one million times weaker than the magnetic signal from a piece of iron.

Purchase of the instrument is being made possible by a $391,000 grant from the National Science Foundation along with other funds from the office of UMaine’s vice president for research. The magnetometer will be housed at UMaine’s Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST), an interdisciplinary center that brings together faculty and student researchers from the departments of physics, chemistry, electrical and computer engineering, and chemical and biological engineering.

Although UMaine Assistant Professor of Physics Robert Meulenberg was the principal investigator on the grant, he envisions the instrument being used by UMaine students, researchers and faculty from a wide variety of sciences.

For at least the first year of its use, the magnetometer, which uses liquid helium as a cooling agent, will be open to and free for use by any UMaine-affiliated researcher. Meulenberg is encouraging faculty or student researchers to contact him if they’re interested in using the magnetometer.

“If you have samples you think are magnetic, we’ll run them free of charge,” he said. “We’re hoping new science can be generated from these initial uses and then future grants can be written with money incorporated to help cover future operational costs.”

In addition to physics and engineering, Meulenberg said the instrument has applications in the areas of chemistry, geology, earth sciences, biology and other areas.

Meulenberg said UMaine would welcome high school groups to see the new instrument starting next fall.

“We’d like to expose students of a younger age to interesting physics,” he said.

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