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Of Interest

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It was with great pleasure that this year—the very year during which we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity by Dutch physicist Kamerlingh Onnes— the ITER Organization was able to welcome the International Magnet Technology (MT) Conference to Marseille.

In the four decades since the MT conference began, there have been enormous gains in both the performance and applications of permanent, resistive, pulsed, hybrid and superconducting magnets. ITER now leads the way by building the largest and most powerful set of magnets ever seen and therefore I think the ITER Organization was a very fitting host.

The MT conference is the biggest international forum for magnet technology. This is where scientists and engineers present their latest research results and interact directly with companies working on the industrialization of these discoveries. With 935 participants, amongst them the world's foremost experts on the various magnet applications, this 22nd edition of the MT conference received more attention than any previous edition.

The high number of participants reflects not only the unwaning interest in the development of ever more powerful magnets and new materials for the non-invasive examination of the human body and high-energy particle physics, but also the steady rise of commercial activity.

In 1961, the first commercial NbTi superconductor was produced by the US company Westinghouse. The arrival of the first practical superconductors coincided to within a decade with the first successes in the magnetic confinement of plasmas. It was quickly obvious that for fusion reactors, superconductivity was going to be indispensible.

Today—100 years after the discovery of superconductivity and 50 years after the first commercial applications—we have arrived at the construction of the ITER magnets, which will require 450 tonnes of Nb3Sn strand and 250 tonnes of NbTi strand. The dimensions of the ITER magnets are approximately two orders of magnitude larger than those of the first superconducting device in 1965. ITER will also make use of the latest high temperature superconductors as part of the current leads that pass current to the coils.

Download the text of the opening speech here.

The "magnet family united" in front of the Marseille conference venue, Parc Chanot.
It is with obvious respect that the visitors moved through the hallways and portals of the ancient Basilica of Saint-Maximin, where organist Pierre Bardon played Bach's Toccata and Fugue on the pipes of the 250 year old organ. The mastery of the fugue has not lost its fascination. The organ concert and the subsequent banquet in the festively illuminated courtyard of the adjacent convent were the closing chord of the 22nd Magnet Technology (MT) Conference that that took place in Marseille last week.

First established in 1965, the MT is the world's largest gathering in this field. Every two years it brings together the world's foremost experts on magnet technology in order to advance various applications: from the MRI machines that allow for the non-invasive examination of the human body; to high-energy particle physics; and finally on to fusion, where "superconducting magnet technology is critical to future commercial exploitation," as ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima stated in the conference's opening speech on Monday 12 September.

In the year when the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity and the 50th anniversary of applied superconductivity, ITER—as the project that will push the boundaries of existing magnet technology in a wide variety of areas—had the honour of hosting the MT conference. And with a record number of 935 participants, 979 submitted abstracts, 632 papers, 600 posters and 130 oral presentations, this 22nd edition of the Magnet Technology conference broke all records. "I think what we're seeing here is genuine growth in the interest in magnet technology," conference Chairman Neil Mitchell stated. "This might be due to the steady climb in commercial activity for magnets which is about 20 percent per year," Mitchell added.

In his plenary talk "A century of critical temperature," the Grand Seigneur of Magnet Technology Martin Wilson gave an entertaining summary of the developments in the field over the past 100 years. In one highlight, he described the "birth hour" of applied superconductivity during the the 1987 meeting of the American Physical Society. "News had spread about the breakthrough of high-temperature superconductors and everybody wanted to hear more about this thrilling news. Lectures were given and discussed until 2:00 a.m. and there was almost no way to get into the packed rooms." This event later made it into the history books as the "Woodstock of Physics."

Fifty years later, the technology is well established, but R&D never stops; this 22nd edition of the MT conference featured papers on the development of applications using the new generation of High Temperature Superconductors. "The MT is a forum for exchange of information where, in particular, the companies working on industrialization of discoveries interact with the clients who want to use the products," explained Neil Mitchell. "It's not only new discoveries, but also improved techniques for manufacturing old technologies that comes up. The interfacing nature of the conference makes it popular."

In a special ceremony on Monday, this year's IEEE awards for continuing and significant contributions in the field of applied superconductivity were presented. This year's winners were:

  • Yukikazu Iwasa, from MIT's Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, for his pioneering work on techniques for making superconducting joints between NbTi and Nb3SN wires (and, more recently, MgB2 wires)

  • Alvin Tollestrup, from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, for his efforts in leading the pioneering design, testing and commissioning of 1,000 superconducting magnets for the Tevatron at Fermi Lab

  • Bernard Turck, from the CEA in Cadarache, for the invention of the Tore Supra conductor and his major role in the commissioning of the Tore Supra superconducting magnet system which has been in operation for more than 20 years

  • Finally on Friday, 16 September, before the participants made their way back to homes in the east and the west, the stage was clear to invite all assembled to the 23nd Magnet Technology conference that will take place in 2013. "See you in Boston!"

    Follow this link to the official MT-22 website.

    During the reception for the MT 22 participants at the Palais de la Bourse in Marseille last week, a new ITER Organization video celebrating the 50th anniversary of applied superconductivity "Mercury practically zero" had its official debut.

    This video will take us first to the Institut Néel, in Grenoble France, then to CERN in Geneva. Robert Aymar will guide us at the Tore Supra installation in CEA-Cadarache and at the ITER Poloidal Field Coils Winding Facility. Finally, we'll head for the Neurospin facility in Saclay, near Paris, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

    The 3rd ITERcultural seminar organized by the Agence Iter France and ITER Organization took place on Friday 9 September.

    Eighty-five members of the ITER Organization and their spouses participated in workshops that explored the experience of expatriation and intercultural adaptation. Representatives from ITER Administration and Human Resources and from Agence Iter France were present; these groups will work closely together to implement the key messages of the workshops into the welcome and integration process of ITER staff and their families arriving from abroad.
    Moving to another country is never an easy journey. As Leslie Ray, one of the workshop facilitators, said: "Cultural adaptation is a process, not an event."

    Cultural adaptation takes time and always starts with culture shock. Every individual goes through different steps and many participants evoked feelings of vulnerability, pain, or even depression, while recognizing that some of their expectations prior to arrival may have been unrealistic.

    On this date so close to 11 September, which reminded the participants of 11 March 2011 in Japan and 11 September 2001 in the US, thoughts turned to those who had been affected by the terrible events. With workshop facilitator Hiroatsu Nohara, participants attempted to understand the experience of being far from one's country and relatives when such dreadful events occur.

    Empathy and solidarity took on their true meaning during these discussions.

    The Tokamak Seismic Pit is always a spectacular view, even when seen from a bus window
    Participants in the MT-22 conference last week in Marseille were of course familiar with ITER—the project that will implement the largest set of superconducting magnets ever designed.

    On Tuesday, some 300 of them, magnet experts and representatives of the industry, got a chance to see for themselves what ITER will look like.

    Before boarding the buses to tour the ITER platform, visitors were given presentations by ITER coil designers Fabrice Simon and Mello Delgetta, and F4E's Hannu Rajainmaki.

    Hervé Graulier, the head of the Welcome Office for International Companies (WOIC) was also available to answer requests from the industry representatives.

    After a stop at the edge of the Tokamak Seismic Pit, where lots of pictures were taken, the participants headed to CEA-Cadarache to visit the Tore Supra installation.

    A CEA-Euratom project, Tore Supra was the first tokamak to implement superconducting magnets in 1988.

    "What is expected of me is a lot like what I've been doing throughout my career as a naval officer," says Pierre-Marie Delplanque, recently appointed as Managing Director by AIF. "It will be about organizing and coordinating, negotiating and convincing ..."
    The ITER Itinerary begins at Port de la Pointe, on the northern shore of the Étang de Berre, a 155-square kilometre body of water on the west side of Marseille that is open to the Mediterranean. This is not, however, the main reason why Agence ITER France recently appointed a Rear Admiral to manage and coordinate future operations along the ITER Itinerary ...

    "What is expected of me is a lot like what I've been doing throughout my career as a naval officer. The job as Directeur délégué (Managing Director) will be about organizing and coordinating, negotiating and convincing ..." explains Pierre-Marie Delplanque, a Navy Officer for 37 years and the former "Pasha" of the 2,400-person Marine Fire Battalion (Marins-pompiers) of Marseille.

    A naval officer's life is not just about sailing and commanding ships and flotillas—or even flying embarked helicopters, which Pierre-Marie Delplanque did for some 12 years at the start of his career.

    Evacuating nationals from war-torn countries, fighting against drug and arm trafficking in the Indian Ocean or against pirates off the coast of Somalia can also be part of the job. "The scope was quite large, the métiers quite different. Let's say that first and foremost, the job required adaptability ..."

    And diplomacy also: "I've been in many operations that involved several nations, within NATO for instance, or different agencies or institutions. Even in my last post as Commanding Officer of the Marseille Marine Fire Battalion, diplomacy was paramount."

    The experience will prove extremely valuable when it comes to coordinating the actors involved in the transportation of the ITER components along the Itinerary. "We will work with the State administrations, the Port Authority, the local governments and municipalities, the security services, the motorway company ... and of course the local population."

    Beginning in mid-2012 and for a period of five to six years, several hundred "especially exceptional convoys" will travel nightly along the 104 kilometres of the ITER Itinerary, passing through 16 villages and cutting through the A7 and A51 thruways in four different locations.

    For Delplanque however, the biggest challenge is not technical or administrative. "We must seek support from the local population. We will need to explain what we are doing and why we are doing it. By informing the local population, we will associate them and, hopefully, gain their enthusiasm."