History of high fields in Grenoble

In Grenoble, the study of magnetism really started with the arrival of Louis Néel and his small team (Louis Weil, Robert Forrer), refugees from the University of Strasbourg in 1940. Initially, Louis Néel, well known for his model of antiferromagnetism (1936), works a lot on the theory of magnetism in small fields (after his work on neutralisation of the magnetism of the Marine’s boats). After the war, he decides to stay in Grenoble, and gets funding in order to build a large experimental laboratory outside Paris area. Louis Weil works on low temperatures technologies with Albert Lacaze (hired in 1947). René Pauthenet (1948) starts building a vertical electromagnet (to receive a cryostat or a furnace), and perform magnetization measurements up to 2 T on ferrites. Meanwhile, Noël Félici builds electrostatic generators with Roger Morel, and after the construction of an X-ray diffractometer by Jacques Mering, E.Félix Bertaut becomes specialist of X-ray and neutron diffraction. Later Michel Soutif brings another tool in Grenoble with the NMR (from 1951) and new physicists. After his theory of ferrimagnetism (in 1947), the ferrimagetism of rare earth garnets is found in Grenoble (Forrat, Bertaut and Pauthenet). Then (1956) a nuclear reactor for research is built in Grenoble, and large efforts are being made to reach larger and larger magnetic filelds using electromagnets (Pauthenet and Rimet), pulsed fields (M. Guillot and G. Fillon) and Copper coils for continuous magnetic fiels (P. Rub and J.C. Picoche). New CNRS buildings are built in 1962 to welcome chemistry and X-rays, large fields, low temperatures ( by adiabatic demagetisation then with home made dilution fridges), and high pressures. First a generator of 1,7 MW is installed to reach respectively 8 T and 11 T in Wood coils or in Bitter coils, and measurements down to 50 mK starts in 1966.

High field building 1968

A user facility called « Service des champs magnétiques intenses » is then planned and it starts in a new buiding (current J building) upon the progress of thyristors to replace rotating generators, and developping the Francis Bitter technique successful in the Bitter laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, Cambridge. This user facility opens in 1970, with 5 MW power supply. Later (1972) another 5 MW power supply is added with the help of the Max-Plank Institute which starts a 33 years long collaboration of MPG with CNRS. Soon magnetic fields of 15T (horizontal) to 20 T (vertical) are obtained in a 50 mm bore at room temperature, and magneto-optics, magnetisation, transport measurements are performed at very low temperature and/or high pressure. In 1970, Louis Néel obtains the Nobel price for his discoveries of antiferromagnetism (1936) and of ferrimagnetism (1947). The attemps to replace Bitter discs by copper helices of various sizes allows engineers to reach 25T with 10MW in 50mm (H. Schneider-Muntau in 1982). In parallel, the superconducting wires become more and more performant, and after building several superconducting coils (J.C. Vallier) it appears possible to concieve a hybride coil with a 11T superconducting coil build around a Bitter or a Polyhelix coil, in 1975. Guy Aubert calculates the size of the various superconducting and resistive coils to get the best working conditions (current density, cooling, mechanical resistance) in most parts of these complex arrangements. This common german-french project is successful in 1987 with a record field of 31,36 T in a 50mm bore diameter with 10 MW. The collaboration is also successful in the discovery of the « Quantum Hall Effect » by Klaus von Klitzing (february 1980) who gets the Nobel price for this work in 1985.

The power of the electrical and hydraulical installations are doubled to reach 24MW, and a common CNRS – DFG laboratory , the  Grenoble High Magnetic Field Laboratory, is created (direction : Wyder-Martinez) in 1992. At the same time a new lab is also created in Tallahassee, the NHMFL (sometimes with ex-employees from the GHMFL). The NHMFL develops both the superconducting system and the Bitter coils (Florida-Bitter) to finally obtain 45 T in a 32mm bore diameter in 2002.

In 1997 the GHMFL has improved the new concept of polyhelix coils (Aubert-Joss-Debray) and it starts the project of a new hybrid with a 80cm bore superconducting coil. The « polyhelix technique » is improved to get up to 37 T in a 34mm bore diameter, and 31 T in 50mm. The DFG-CNRS collaboration ends in 2004, and the CNRS increases its participation to the lab in terms of budget and personal. The NMR group of Saint-Martin d’Hères progressively joins its competences to the LCMI laboratory. In 2009, Geert Rikken proposes to bring together the pulsed magnetic fields of Toulouse and the continuous magnetic fields of Grenoble in a national laboratory the «Laboratoire National des Champs Magnétiques Intenses (LNCMI) ». Since 2015, the LNCMI  is part of the European Magnetic Field Laboratory (EMFL) along with the Dresden pulsed field facility and the DC fields of Nijmegen (HMFL). This large european facility with various experimental set-ups, is well organized to realise ground-breaking science in high magnetic fields.

Voir aussi dans «History of the Laboratory»

History of pulsed fields in Toulouse