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Published 1992 | public
Journal Article

Uniform magnetic fields and double-wrapped coil systems: Improved techniques for the design of bioelectromagnetic experiments


A common mistake in biomagnetic experimentation is the assumption that Helmholtz coils provide uniform magnetic fields; this is true only for a limited volume at their center. Substantial improvements on this design have been made during the past 140 years with systems of three, four, and five coils. Numerical comparisons of the field uniformity generated by these designs are made here, along with a table of construction details and recommendations for their use in experiments in which large volumes of uniform intensity magnetic exposures are needed. Double-wrapping, or systems of bifilar windings, can also help control for the non-magnetic effects of the electric coils used in many experiments. In this design, each coil is wrapped in parallel with two separate, adjacent strands of copper wire, rather than the single strand used normally. If currents are flowing in antiparallel directions, the magnetic fields generated by each strand will cancel and yield virtually no external magnetic field, whereas parallel currents will yield an external field. Both cases will produce similar non-magnetic effects of ohmic heating, and simple measures can reduce the small vibration and electric field differences. Control experiments can then be designed such that the only major difference between treated and untreated groups is the presence or absence of the magnetic field. Double-wrapped coils also facilitate the use of truly double-blind protocol, as the same apparatus can be used either for experimental or control groups.

Additional Information

© 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc. This research supported in part by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) contract RP2965-8 and NIH grant GM41635. Contribution No. 5000 from the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences of the California Institute of Technology. I thank two anonymous referees for their helpful comments.

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