Magnetism around us - Applications

Like phono cartridges, headphones and loudspeakers, the microphone is a transducer – in other words, an energy converter. It senses acoustic energy (sound) and translates it into equivalent electrical energy. Amplified and sent to a loudspeaker or headphone, the sound picked up by the microphone transducer should emerge from the speaker transducer with no significant changes...
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How a Microphone Works
While there are many ways to convert sound into electrical energy, we’ll concentrate on the two most popular methods: dynamic and condenser. These are the types of microphones most often found in recording studios, broadcast, motion picture video production, and on stages for live sound reinforcement.

Why Microphone Selection is Important
The microphone is, by its nature, at the very beginning of most sound systems and recording applications. If the mic can’t capture the sound clearly and accurately, and with low noise, even the best electronics and speakers following it won’t produce the optimum sound. So it’s important to invest in good microphones, to maximize sound system performance potential.

Dynamic Microphones
Comparing microphones to loudspeakers may help you to understand their operation. Dynamic microphones are similar to conventional loudspeakers in many respects. Both have a diaphragm (or cone) with a voice coil (a long coil of wire) attached near the apex. Both have a magnetic system with the coil in its gap. The difference is in how they are used.

With a speaker, current from the amplifier flows through the coil. The magnetic field created by current flowing through the voice coil interacts with the magnetic field of the speaker’s magnet, forcing the coil and attached cone to move back and forth, producing sound output.

A dynamic microphone operates like a speaker in reverse. The diaphragm is moved by changing sound pressure. This moves the coil, which causes current to flow as lines of flux from the magnet are cut. So, instead of putting electrical energy into the coil (as in a speaker) you get energy out of it. In fact, many intercom systems use small speakers with lightweight cones as both a speaker and a microphone, by simply switching the same transducer from one end of the amplifier to the other! A speaker doesn’t make a great microphone, but it’s good enough for that application.

Dynamic microphones are renowned for their ruggedness and reliability. They need no batteries or external power supplies. They are capable of smooth, extended response, or are available with “tailored” response for special applications. Output level is high enough to work directly into most microphone inputs with an excellent signal-to-noise ratio. They need little or no regular maintenance, and with reasonable care will maintain their performance for many years.

Condenser Microphones
Condenser (or capacitor) microphones use a lightweight membrane and a fixed plate that act as opposite sides of a capacitor. Sound pressure against this thin polymer film causes it to move. This movement changes the capacitance of the circuit, creating a changing electrical output. (In many respects a condenser microphone functions in the same manner as an electrostatic tweeter, although on a much smaller scale and “in reverse.”)

Condenser microphones are preferred for their very uniform frequency response, and ability to respond with clarity to transient sounds. The low mass of the diaphragm permits extended high-frequency response, while the nature of the design also ensures outstanding low-frequency pickup. The resulting sound is natural, clean and clear, with excellent transparency and detail.

Two basic types of condenser microphones are currently available. One uses an external power supply to provide the polarizing voltage needed for the capacitive circuit. These externally-polarized microphones are intended primarily for professional studio use or other extremely critical applications.

A more recent development is the electret condenser microphone. In these models, the polarizing voltage is impressed on either the diaphragm or the back plate during the manufacturing process, and this charge remains for the life of the microphone.

Other Types of Microphones
There a number of ways to translate sound into electrical energy. Carbon granules are used as elements in telephones and communications microphones. And some low-cost microphones use crystal or ceramic elements that are generally OK for speech, but are not seriously considered for music or critical sound reproduction.

Particle accelerator, any device that produces a beam of fast-moving, electrically charged atomic or subatomic particles. Physicists use accelerators in fundamental research on the structure of nuclei, the nature of nuclear forces, and the properties of nuclei not found in nature, as in the transuranium elements and other unstable elements. Accelerators are also used for radioisotope production, industrial radiography, radiation therapy, sterilization of biological materials, and a certain form of radiocarbon dating. The largest accelerators are used in research on the fundamental interactions of the elementary subatomic particles...
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Most of the development of particle accelerators has been motivated by research into the properties of atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. Starting with British physicist Ernest Rutherford’s discovery in 1919 of a reaction between a nitrogen nucleus and an alpha particle, all research in nuclear physics until 1932 was performed with alpha particles released by the decay of naturally radioactive elements. Natural alpha particles have kinetic energies as high as 8 MeV, but Rutherford believed that, in order to observe the disintegration of heavier nuclei by alpha particles, it would be necessary to accelerate alpha particle ions artificially to even higher energies. At that time there seemed little hope of generating laboratory voltages sufficient to accelerate ions to the desired energies. However, a calculation made in 1928 by George Gamow (then at the University of Göttingen, Ger.) indicated that considerably less-energetic ions could be useful, and this stimulated attempts to build an accelerator that could provide a beam of particles suitable for nuclear research.

Other developments of that period demonstrated principles still employed in the design of particle accelerators. The first successful experiments with artificially accelerated ions were performed in England at the University of Cambridge by John Douglas Cockcroft and E.T.S. Walton in 1932. Using a voltage multiplier, they accelerated protons to energies as high as 710 keV and showed that these react with the lithium nucleus to produce two energetic alpha particles. By 1931, at Princeton University in New Jersey, Robert J. Van de Graaff had constructed the first belt-charged electrostatic high-voltage generator. Cockcroft-Walton-type voltage multipliers and Van de Graaff generators are still employed as power sources for accelerators.

The principle of the linear resonance accelerator was demonstrated by Rolf Wideröe in 1928. At the Rhenish-Westphalian Technical University in Aachen, Ger., Wideröe used alternating high voltage to accelerate ions of sodium and potassium to energies twice as high as those imparted by one application of the peak voltage. In 1931 in the United States, Ernest O. Lawrence and his assistant David H. Sloan, at the University of California, Berkeley, employed high-frequency fields to accelerate mercury ions to more than 1.2 MeV. This work augmented Wideröe’s achievement in accelerating heavy ions, but the ion beams were not useful in nuclear research.

The magnetic resonance accelerator, or cyclotron, was conceived by Lawrence as a modification of Wideröe’s linear resonance accelerator. Lawrence’s student M.S. Livingston demonstrated the principle of the cyclotron in 1931, producing 80-keV ions; in 1932 Lawrence and Livingston announced the acceleration of protons to more than 1 MeV. Later in the 1930s, cyclotron energies reached about 25 MeV and Van de Graaff generators about 4 MeV. In 1940 Donald W. Kerst, applying the results of careful orbit calculations to the design of magnets, constructed the first betatron, a magnetic-induction accelerator of electrons, at the University of Illinois.

Following World War II there was a rapid advance in the science of accelerating particles to high energies. Progress was initiated by Edwin Mattison McMillan at Berkeley and by Vladimir Iosifovich Veksler at Moscow. In 1945 both men independently described the principle of phase stability. This concept suggested a means of maintaining stable particle orbits in the cyclic accelerator and thus removed an apparent limitation on the energy of resonance accelerators for protons (see below Cyclotrons: Classical cyclotrons) and made possible the construction of magnetic resonance accelerators (called synchrotrons) for electrons. Phase focusing, the implementation of the principle of phase stability, was promptly demonstrated by the construction of a small synchrocyclotron at the University of California and an electron synchrotron in England. The first proton linear resonance accelerator was constructed soon thereafter. The large proton synchrotrons that have been built since then all depend on this principle.

In 1947 William W. Hansen, at Stanford University in California, constructed the first traveling-wave linear accelerator of electrons, exploiting microwave technology that had been developed for radar during World War II.

The progress in research made possible by raising the energies of protons led to the building of successively larger accelerators; the trend was ended only by the cost of fabricating the huge magnet rings required—the largest weighs approximately 40,000 tons. A means of increasing the energy without increasing the scale of the machines was provided by a demonstration in 1952 by Livingston, Ernest D. Courant, and H.S. Snyder of the technique of alternating-gradient focusing (sometimes called strong focusing). Synchrotrons incorporating this principle needed magnets only 1/100 the size that would be required otherwise. All recently constructed synchrotrons make use of alternating-gradient focusing.

In 1956 Kerst realized that, if two sets of particles could be maintained in intersecting orbits, it should be possible to observe interactions in which one particle collided with another moving in the opposite direction. Application of this idea requires the accumulation of accelerated particles in loops called storage rings (see below Colliding-beam storage rings). The highest reaction energies now obtainable have been produced by the use of this technique.

Principles Of Particle Acceleration
Particle accelerators exist in many shapes and sizes (even the ubiquitous television picture tube is in principle a particle accelerator), but the smallest accelerators share common elements with the larger devices. First, all accelerators must have a source that generates electrically charged particles—electrons in the case of the television tube and electrons, protons, and their antiparticles in the case of larger accelerators. All accelerators must have electric fields to accelerate the particles, and they must have magnetic fields to control the paths of the particles. Also, the particles must travel through a good vacuum—that is, in a container with as little residual air as possible, as in a television tube. Finally, all accelerators must have some means of detecting, counting, and measuring the particles after they have been accelerated through the vacuum.

Generating particles
Electrons and protons, the particles most commonly used in accelerators, are found in all materials, but for an accelerator the appropriate particles must be separated out. Electrons are usually produced in exactly the same way as in a television picture tube, in a device known as an electron “gun.” The gun contains a cathode (negative electrode) in a vacuum, which is heated so that electrons break away from the atoms in the cathode material. The emitted electrons, which are negatively charged, are attracted toward an anode (positive electrode), where they pass through a hole. The gun itself is in effect a simple accelerator, because the electrons move through an electric field, as described below. The voltage between the cathode and the anode in an electron gun is typically 50,000–150,000 volts, or 50–150 kilovolts (kV).

As with electrons, there are protons in all materials, but only the nuclei of hydrogen atoms consist of single protons, so hydrogen gas is the source of particles for proton accelerators. In this case the gas is ionized—the electrons and protons are separated in an electric field—and the protons escape through a hole. In large high-energy particle accelerators, protons are often produced initially in the form of negative hydrogen ions. These are hydrogen atoms with an extra electron, which are also formed when the gas, originally in the form of molecules of two atoms, is ionized. Negative hydrogen ions prove easier to handle in the initial stages of large accelerators. They are later passed through thin foils to strip off the electrons before the protons move to the final stage of acceleration.

Solenoid is the generic term for a coil of wire used as an electromagnet. It also refers to any device that converts electrical energy to mechanical energy using a solenoid. The device creates a magnetic field from electric current and uses the magnetic field to create linear motion. Common applications of solenoids are to power a switch, like the starter in an automobile, or a valve, such as in a sprinkler system...
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How a Solenoid Works
A solenoid is a coil of wire in a corkscrew shape wrapped around a piston, often made of iron. As in all electromagnets, a magnetic field is created when an electric current passes through the wire. Electromagnets have an advantage over permanent magnets in that they can be switched on and off by the application or removal of the electric current, which is what makes them useful as switches and valves and allows them to be entirely automated.

Like all magnets, the magnetic field of an activated solenoid has positive and negative poles that will attract or repel material sensitive to magnets. In a solenoid, the electromagnetic field causes the piston to either move backward or forward, which is how motion is created by a solenoid coil.

How Does a Solenoid Valve Work?
In a direct-acting valve, electric current activates the solenoid, which in turn pulls a piston or plunger that would otherwise block air or fluid from flowing. In some solenoid valves, the electromagnetic field does not act directly to open the conduit. In pilot-operated valves, a solenoid moves the plunger, which creates a small opening, and pressure through the opening is what operates the valve seal. In both types, solenoid valves require a constant flow of electrical current to remain open because once the current is stopped, the electromagnetic field disperses and the valve returns to its original closed position.

Electric Solenoids
In an automobile ignition system, the starter solenoid acts as a relay, bringing metal contacts into place to close a circuit. The starter solenoid receives a small electric current when the car's ignition is activated, usually by the turn of the key. The magnetic field of the solenoid then pulls on the contacts, closing the circuit between the car's battery and the starter motor. The starter solenoid requires a constant flow of electricity in order to maintain the circuit, but because the engine is self-powering once started, the solenoid is inactive for most of the time.

Uses for Solenoids
Solenoids are incredibly versatile and extremely useful. They're found in everything from automated factory equipment to paintball guns and even doorbells. In a chime doorbell, the audible chime is produced when a metal piston strikes a tone bar. The force that moves the piston is the magnetic field of a solenoid that receives electric current when the doorbell is pushed.


A superconductor is an element or metallic alloy which, when cooled below a certain threshold temperature, the material dramatically loses all electrical resistance. In principle, superconductors can allow electrical current to flow without any energy loss (although, in practice, an ideal superconductor is very hard to produce). This type of current is called a supercurrent. The threshold temperature below which a material transitions into a superconductor state is designated as Tc, which stands for critical temperature. Not all materials turn into superconductors, and the materials that do each have their own value of Tc...
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Types of Superconductors
Type I superconductors act as conductors at room temperature, but when cooled below Tc, the molecular motion within the material reduces enough that the flow of current can move unimpeded.
Type 2 superconductors are not particularly good conductors at room temperature, the transition to a superconductor state is more gradual than Type 1 superconductors. The mechanism and physical basis for this change in state is not, at present, fully understood. Type 2 superconductors are typically metallic compounds and alloys.

Discovery of the Superconductor
Superconductivity was first discovered in 1911 when mercury was cooled to approximately 4 degrees Kelvin by Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, which earned him the 1913 Nobel Prize in physics. In the years since, this field has greatly expanded and many other forms of superconductors have been discovered, including Type 2 superconductors in the 1930s.
The basic theory of superconductivity, BCS Theory, earned the scientists—John Bardeen, Leon Cooper, and John Schrieffer—the 1972 Nobel Prize in physics. A portion of the 1973 Nobel Prize in physics went to Brian Josephson, also for work with superconductivity.

In January 1986, Karl Muller and Johannes Bednorz made a discovery that revolutionized how scientists thought of superconductors. Prior to this point, the understanding was that superconductivity manifested only when cooled to near absolute zero, but using an oxide of barium, lanthanum, and copper, they found that it became a superconductor at approximately 40 degrees Kelvin. This initiated a race to discover materials that functioned as superconductors at much higher temperatures.

In the decades since, the highest temperatures that had been reached were about 133 degrees Kelvin (though you could get up to 164 degrees Kelvin if you applied a high pressure). In August 2015, a paper published in the journal Nature reported the discovery of superconductivity at a temperature of 203 degrees Kelvin when under high pressure.

Applications of Superconductors
Superconductors are used in a variety of applications, but most notably within the structure of the Large Hadron Collider. The tunnels that contain the beams of charged particles are surrounded by tubes containing powerful superconductors. The supercurrents that flow through the superconductors generate an intense magnetic field, through electromagnetic induction, that can be used to accelerate and direct the team as desired.

In addition, superconductors exhibit the Meissner effect in which they cancel all magnetic flux inside the material, becoming perfectly diamagnetic (discovered in 1933). In this case, the magnetic field lines actually travel around the cooled superconductor. It is this property of superconductors which is frequently used in magnetic levitation experiments, such as the quantum locking seen in quantum levitation. In other words, if Back to the Future style hoverboards ever become a reality. In a less mundane application, superconductors play a role in modern advancements in magnetic levitation trains, which provide a powerful possibility for high-speed public transport that is based on electricity (which can be generated using renewable energy) in contrast to non-renewable current options like airplanes, cars, and coal-powered trains.

Pole-mounted distribution transformer with center-tapped secondary winding used to provide "split-phase" power for residential and light commercial service, which in North America is typically rated 120/240 V. A transformer is a passive electrical device that transfers electrical energy from one electrical circuit to another, or multiple circuits. A varying current in any one coil of the transformer produces a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core, which induces a varying electromotive force across any other coils wound around the same core...
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Electrical energy can be transferred between separate coils without a metallic (conductive) connection between the two circuits. Faraday's law of induction, discovered in 1831, describes the induced voltage effect in any coil due to a changing magnetic flux encircled by the coil. Transformers are most commonly used for increasing low AC voltages at high current (a step-up transformer) or decreasing high AC voltages at low current (a step-down transformer) in electric power applications, and for coupling the stages of signal-processing circuits. Transformers can also be used for isolation, where the voltage in equals the voltage out, with separate coils not electrically bonded to one another. Since the invention of the first constant-potential transformer in 1885, transformers have become essential for the transmission, distribution, and utilization of alternating current electric power. A wide range of transformer designs is encountered in electronic and electric power applications. Transformers range in size from RF transformers less than a cubic centimeter in volume, to units weighing hundreds of tons used to interconnect the power grid.