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Fermilab | Batavia, IL | USA

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Revolutionary muon experiment to begin with 3,200-mile move of 50-foot-wide particle storage ring

This Fermilab press release came out on May 8. Read the original press release.

A model of the truck that will be used to transport the Muon g-2 ring, placed on a streetscape for scale. The truck will be escorted by police and other vehicles when it moves from Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York to a barge, and then from the barge to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. Credit: Fermilab

Scientists from 26 institutions around the world are planning a new experiment that could open the doors to new realms of particle physics. But first, they have to bring the core of this experiment, a complex electromagnet that spans 50 feet in diameter, from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York to the DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.

The experiment is called Muon g-2 (pronounced gee-minus-two), and will study the properties of muons, tiny subatomic particles that exist for only 2.2 millionths of a second. The core of the experiment is a machine built at Brookhaven in the 1990s, and the centerpiece of that machine is a circular electromagnet made of steel and aluminum, 50 feet wide, with superconducting cable inside.

“It costs about 10 times less to move the magnet from Brookhaven to Illinois than it would to build a new one,” said Lee Roberts of Boston University, spokesperson for the Muon g-2 experiment. “So that’s what we’re going to do. It’s an enormous effort from all sides, but it will be worth it.”

While most of the machine can be disassembled and brought to Fermilab in trucks, the massive electromagnet must be transported in one piece. It also cannot tilt or twist more than a few degrees, or the complex wiring inside will be irreparably damaged. The Muon g-2 team has devised a plan to make the 3,200-mile journey that involves loading the ring onto a specially prepared barge and bringing it down the East Coast, around the tip of Florida and up the Mississippi River to Illinois.

The ring is expected to leave New York in early June, and land in Illinois in late July. Once it arrives, the ring will be placed onto a truck built just for this purpose, and driven to Fermilab in Batavia, a suburb of Chicago. The land transport portions on both the New York and Illinois ends of the trip will occur at night—to minimize traffic delays—and the truck will only travel, at most, 10 miles per hour. On the New York end, the trip from Brookhaven Lab’s gate to the departure port should take one night. The complete trip from the Illinois port to Fermilab should take two consecutive nights.

“The transport of the ring from Brookhaven to Fermilab is a great example of the cooperation that exists between national laboratories,” said James Siegrist, associate director of science for high-energy physics with the U.S. Department of Energy. “The Muon g-2 experiment is an important component of the future of particle physics in the United States.”

Once at Fermilab, the storage ring will be used to hold muons created in the laboratory’s accelerators. Muons “wobble” when placed in a magnetic field, and based on what we know about the universe, scientists have predicted the exact value of that wobble. An experiment using the same machine at Brookhaven in the 1990s saw evidence for – though not definitive proof of – a departure from that expected value.

“Fermilab can generate a much more intense and pure beam of muons, so the Muon g-2 experiment should be able to close that margin of error,” said Chris Polly, project manager for Fermilab. “If we can do that, this experiment could indicate that there is exciting science awaiting beyond what we have observed.”

The experiment is scheduled to begin taking data in 2016.

“The ring is a wonder of scientific engineering,” said William Morse of Brookhaven. “We’re extremely proud of it, and excited to see it used in this next-generation experiment.”

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3 Responses to “Revolutionary muon experiment to begin with 3,200-mile move of 50-foot-wide particle storage ring”

  1. [...] Quantum Diaries: A 15.24-m-diameter electromagnet built and used in the 1990s at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York is to be moved to Illinois later this year. The ring-shaped electromagnet and other parts of that original experiment will now be used in the Muon g−2 to study the properties of muons. Transporting the large magnet to Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, will cost almost 10 times less than building a new ring from scratch. The ring will sail on a barge down the East Coast, pass around Florida, and then head up the Mississippi River before being transferred to a specially designed flatbed truck for the final drive to Fermilab. The ring itself is used to trap and store muons, which “wobble” when held in a magnetic field. Although the amount of wobble measured in the older experiment did not match scientists’ predictions, Fermilab’s more intense and pure beam of muons may help attain a more definitive measurement. [...]

  2. Peter says:

    What’s so ‘revolutionary’ about a rerun I wonder..?

  3. Hamish Johnston says:

    Wouldn’t it be quicker to take it on a ship northwards to the St Lawrence River and then through the Great Lakes to Chicago?

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