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Physicists Create an Artificial Magnetic Wormhole

Physicists Create an Artificial Magnetic Wormhole

by Samburaj DasAugust 24, 2015

It’s not a time for space-time distortion, yet. Three physicists have constructed what they claim to be the world’s first artificial magnetic wormhole by using metamaterials – the stuff that could be used to build invisibility cloaks, someday.

A trio of physicists at the Autonomous University of Barcelona have created an ‘artificial magnetic wormhole’. In other words, this is a wormhole that is capable of transferring a magnetic field from one point in space to another while using a path that is magnetically undetectable, reports the New Scientist.

Image from Jordi Prat-Camps and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Image from Jordi Prat-Camps and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

While the wormhole isn’t exactly the space-time portal frequently adopted by science-fiction, it has proven to allow a magnetic field to disappear and re-emerge from one region to another. The creation could potentially lead to better magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, researchers say.

Alvaro Sanchez, Carles Navau and Jordi Prat-Camps, the trio of physicists behind the invention sought inspiration from a design initially theorized and proposed in 2007.

Speaking about the wormhole device, Matti Lassas at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland and the co-author of the original paper said:

They modified our earlier mathematical constructions in a very clever way so that an artificial wormhole could be built using present engineering techniques.

Magnetised Magic

Wormholes are fundamentally hypothetical tunnels that would connect two distant areas of space-time by creating a short-cut using higher dimensions, in theory. They have never been observed or cataloged in nature and pose a nigh-impossible challenge to be recreated in a lab.

With their latest published work, the three physicists in Barcelona have uniquely devised and built a wormhole for a magnetic field. The sphere they created is 9 centimeters in diameter and has the demonstrated the ability to guide and cloak a magnetic field sourced from a dipole situated on one side of the sphere.  The field seems to take an invisible shortcut through the space in between, before appearing to emanate from the other end from a monopole.

You see the apparatus with your eyes but magnetically it is undetectable. It is like the field lines have gone through another spatial dimension – Sanchez.


The physicists made use of metamaterials – materials artificially developed that help with “unprecedented control of electromagnetic waves,” according to the trio.

Put together by a sum of three parts using metamaterials, the wormhole device contains:

  • A tube made from an alloy of ferromagnetic nickel-iron, in a thin sheet that is spirally wound to transport the applied magnetic field.
  • A layer of superconducting tape and an array of high permeability mu-metal alloy plates that are arranged for the optimum magnetic response – both of which make the spherical shell.

The superconducting tape serves to repel external magnetic fields which essentially isolates the sheet within, magnetically. The array figures in by compensating external fields distorted by the superconductor. Extensive computer modeling further helped with the design of the array to decisively cancel the superconductor’s magnetic signature.

Sanchez and his team are aiming to interact with local doctors to help with further research for better MRI scanners. The wormholes could potentially allow simultaneous MRI imaging without interrupting each other in medical operators, the physicists say. Such an MRI machine would also help in putting distance between loud, bulky sensors and patients, helping with convenience while still relying on the magnetic field despite the added space.

Better MRI Scanners? // Shutterstock

Better MRI Scanners? // Shutterstock

Noting the massive potential with metamaterials, Lassas added:

It makes the scientific work on invisibility cloaking a step – or in fact, a leap – closer to real life applications.

The published scientific report titled “A Magnetic Wormhole” is freely available here.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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