The Place With The Weakest Magnetic Field On Earth

By Darlene Tverdohleb | Aug 17, 2015 12:45 AM EDT

This summer, a series of experiments began in a room with the weakest magnetic field on Earth. Scientists hope to find answers to several fundamental questions for physics science. The laboratory was built by physicists at the Technical University of Munich.

The special chamber achieves a million fold reduction in the intensity of ambient magnetic fields. This represents a 10-fold improvement on any previous man-made structure. The magnetic field observed in the room is registering even less magnetic force than the vast, empty space between planets. 

In order to achieve such a reduction of the magnetic field, the facility's shielding was made of layers of a highly magnetized metal. This shield can ensure that external magnetic fields cannot pass through to the structure's interior. Within the laboratory, scientists perform ultraprecise experiments with only very low interference from the effects of the magnetic fields of electronics, Earth or even living bodies. The room's special conditions offer a unique opportunity to research important questions in medicine, biology, and physics.

One of the questions in physics that can be analyzed through experiments performed in the special chamber is whether the universe contains more matter than antimatter. The Munich physicists will make experiments that analyze whether in the presence of precisely controlled magnetic fields and high electric field a neutron's magnetic properties behave evenly. Even a slight difference in charge would lead to strong discrepancies in how the particles are balanced and this could hint at how the asymmetry of matter occurred.

Another important question in physics is whether or not magnetic monopoles exist. In case those particles with a single pole could be found in the Universe, they will be able to pass through the room's shielding and sensors would register the increased magnetic activity without any interference.

Scientists can also use the special laboratory to study the composition of the dark matter. One of the experiments planned to take place in the low magnetic field room will monitor for theorized dark matter particles that may affect the spins of some atoms.

Not all the experiments will aim to answer questions in physics. Some other studies will help biology researchers to better understand how animals use magnetic fields to navigate. If organisms would be raised in an environment with low magnetic activity, scientists may be able to understand whether the use of such magnetic fields is a learned or an innate trait.

The special room can also reveal how magnetic fields influence human health. Space with so little magnetic noise allows more detailed diagnoses. For example, it could be easier to distinguish the magnetic field of an unborn child from mother's heart to determine irregularities.

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