Close up of an optical spectrum analyser showing waveform.

Protecting superconductor magnets

Our research is about detecting faults, or quenches, that can release large amounts of energy from—and potentially destroy—superconductor magnets.

Protecting the investment

Superconductor magnets store a lot of energy. This energy, if released in a fault, has the potential to destroy the magnet. Detecting and managing these faults, or quenches, is essential to actively protecting superconducting magnets and enabling them to survive if something goes wrong.

The science

In the case of a fault, areas of the superconductor can rise above the critical temperature and return to a resistive state. In high-temperature superconductor (HTS) magnets, the resistive area normally spreads very slowly, dissipating all energy in a concentrated area and leading to burn out. Building HTS magnets without electrical insulation allows current to bypass these resistive areas but may create other problems leading to destruction of the magnet.

Impact and potential

Quench detection and protection is important to ensure the magnet can handle fault conditions. Plenty of operationally critical magnets have been built in the past without much consideration placed on protection. As a result, most are no longer in operation. Active management is therefore important to protect what is a large investment and ensure safety.

Our capabilities

  • Optical fibre- and voltage-based quench detection
  • Strong international network
  • Quench experiments on sizeable coils with quench heaters
  • Multi-physics quench simulations
  • Helium-cooled and helium-free cryocooled systems
  • Consultancy and expertise

The people

Senior principal engineer Dr Huub Weijers leads the Magnet Systems Group at the Institute. Renowned for his work in high-field magnets since 1993, he brings access to a strong international network.

Research into high-temperature superconductors is a multi-disciplinary field. From Huub’s perspective, what makes Robinson Research Institute so successful is the ready access to specialists across a wide range of areas.

Chief Scientist / Engineer - Space & Magnets

Robinson Research Institute