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How Magnets Are Impacting Modern Technologies

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Magnetism is a concept that humans have been familiar with for over 2000 years. However, the challenges which faced early civilizations took millennia to overcome and it is only relatively recently that we have been able to harness magnets for practical purposes, rather than merely being amazed by their abilities.

Over the course of the 20th century, magnets became integral to the development of many technologies, facilitating the generation of electricity amongst other things. In the 21st century, even more, incredible applications are being developed which will change the world once more. Here are just a few of the most impressive uses of magnets in new and upcoming systems.

Bullet Trains

While Japan has been spearheading the rollout of bullet trains for a long time, similar transport solutions are being developed in many other parts of the world.

The main difference between a traditional locomotive and a modern bullet train is that the latter is suspended on magnets, rather than relying on wheels. The train is effectively levitating off the tracks, meaning that there is no fiction being created at this point. While the trains still need to cope with wind resistance, the magnetic approach means that they can move much faster while using less energy.

So far the fastest speed hit by a bullet train that has maglev tech at its core is 366 miles per hour. This is almost twice the speed of the quickest traditional train designs and engineers are hoping to push this even higher by the time passengers are allowed on board on a regular basis in the next decade.

Disease Detection & Treatment

This is one of the more innovative and unexpected uses of magnets in the modern world, as researchers are looking into the use of magnetised particles which are microscopically small as part of an early warning system for cancer sufferers.

The nanoscale magnetic particles can be formed into a pill which patients will then swallow. Upon consumption, the particles will enter the bloodstream and hunt out cancerous cells which are present here. Through the use of a magnetic wrist strap, the detected cells would be collected and made available for analysis without relying on any of the more invasive solutions that are currently used for this purpose.

This is the perfect demonstration of how versatile magnetism can be as a tool. It can be used to haul huge loads in construction contexts onboard a lifting magnet, or deployed with immense precision for healthcare purposes while the patient is barely aware of its presence.

Using magnetism for medical purposes could allow for both detection and treatment of diseases.

Autonomous Vehicles

Creating self-driving cars is difficult, because even with all the sensor technologies installed, early examples of vehicles that are capable of operating autonomously still need to interpret this data safely using software. Teaching cars to detect hazards and respond appropriately to the myriad situations that will be encountered on public roads is an intensive and unforgiving process because of all the variables involved.

One option that is being pursued by Volvo is to give autonomous vehicles a helping hand by installing magnets beneath the surface of highways so that they can pinpoint their position more accurately.

This is seen as advantageous because of the precision it provides; rather than relying on satellites to acquire their exact locations, cars will be able to pick up the magnetic fields and use these to make decisions.

Another perk of this approach is that it will mean that a car can always plot a course, no matter the weather conditions that are faced. Even in the driving rain or the thickest snowstorms, a road that is lined with magnets should act as a beacon which the vehicle can follow tirelessly.

There is no getting around the fact that major updates will need to be made to the world’s road transport networks to make this a viable option. Even so, pairing this technology with a host of other self-driving solutions could deliver benefits that are worth shouting about.

Self-driving vehicles of the future could avoid hazards thanks to magnets.

Aquatic Architecture

Global warming is creating a cavalcade of complications for people around the world, with rising sea levels meaning that many low lying areas of land are becoming more prone to flooding.

There are of course a lot of proposed ways to deal with this issue, including the idea that buildings should be designed to float when floodwaters arrive and then return to ground level after they dissipate. Rather than using buoyancy as a means of achieving this, one architect has suggested that magnets hold the answer.

The reason to use magnets to levitate buildings rather than installing ballast that can float is that it provides improved stability. This is because magnetic fields remain fairly consistent in how they behave and will not be impacted by the motion of the water.

There will be difficulties related to building these levitating structures because of course, they will need to be assembled already in-situ at the peak of their positioning above the magnets installed below. The intent is to take advantage of the scaffolding and then provide access to the buildings via lifts, ladders or even helipads.

The larger the size and weight of the structure that needs to be supported, the greater the footprint of the magnet that will be set at ground level. This is not especially unusual since a similar approach is necessary when scaling the foundations of structures built via traditional methods.

Of course, ideally, it will not be necessary to worry about the consequences of climate change if global efforts to avert and reverse its effects are successful. Even so, having a plan to deal with worst-case scenarios makes sense, even in the case of an initiative like this which sounds impressive on paper but has a lot of potential drawbacks in practice. The fact that it is even being considered in the first place is a clear sign that magnetism has a lot of potential in a range of industries.

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