Could we charge a superconductive magnet and use it as a source of energy?


2 Answers 2


Yes. The energy expended in producing the magnetic field can be recovered during the field's collapse, which occurs after the current producing the field is shut off.

For example, the amount of energy stored in the superconducting magnets that steer the particle beams in CERN's Large Hadron Collider is equal the the kinetic energy of a fully-loaded jumbo jet going 500 MPH. Shutting the magnets down requires dissipating all that energy, and if anything goes wrong during that process, parts of the collider will get blown to pieces in an instant.

Note that the energy stored in the magnetic field of a superconducting magnet did not get there for free. When running, those magnets and the machinery needed to support them consume as much electrical power as a small city, for which CERN pays the bill.

  • $\begingroup$ Or even worse then blowing things up would be heating up the supercooled magnets. $\endgroup$
    – Barfieldmv
    Dec 27, 2018 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Barfieldmv Heating the supercooled magnets also blows them up (if not done in a controlled and slow way). That's what happened back in 2008 when it was first turned on and it took two years to fix. $\endgroup$
    – Graipher
    Dec 27, 2018 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ the net energy from a lightning strike isn't big enough to justify the cost of collecting it. because of the huge amount of bother in maintaining the liquid helium for the superconducting magnets, I see them as appropriate only in research and experimental settings. this would change when high-temperature superconductivity becomes real. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2018 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ this has in fact been considered as a way to temporarily store electrical power, but there are other ways (like ultracentrifuge flywheels) that do not require refrigeration and are portable. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2018 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ regarding safety, any energy storage methodology that exhibits similar energy density to gasoline is going to have hazards associated with it. For example, getting into a crash with a flywheel storage system will break the flywheel loose and it will either explode into a million pieces or take off a tremendous speed and strike something expensive. in the case of high-capacity batteries, simply shooting an arrow through it will short-circuit it internally, after which it will explode with great force. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2018 at 21:35

Yes, in the same sense that you can store energy in a battery and then use the battery as a source of energy. See for example this Wikipedia article.


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