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The application of superconducting magnets has improved decisively since the late 1980's and is now firmly established as the preferred method in large-scale mineral separation. The breakthrough came with the introduction of user-friendly cryogenic devices, first relatively cost-effective re-liquifiers for ramping mode and then low boil-off machines for reciprocation mode. Now, the first magnets that are cooled directly by Gifford McMahon cryocoolers are appearing and are used on a small scale already. Long-term viability of this sophisticated way of creating magnetic fields will depend on the ease of use and the simplicity of the cryogenic systems. In this paper the development of superconducting magnets is traced with regards to both magnet technology and magnet application. Key events like the exchange of copper coils with superconducting coils and the use of superconducting magnets in far-flung places like the Amazon rainforest are highlighted. An overview of present state-of-the-art machinery and an outlook to future technology trends is given as well as a treatment of the economics of the use of superconductors in a cost-driven industrial environment.
Date of Publication: March 2000