BATAVIA — Scientists at the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in suburban Chicago have powered up a 17-ton electromagnet, which will be the centerpiece of an experiment on subatomic particles.
The 52-foot-wide magnet arrived in Batavia two years ago after a 3,200-mile land and sea trip from Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, where it was built for a similar experiment in the 1990s. It’s now in its own specially designed building at Fermilab.
Scientists at Fermilab cooled the magnet to minus 450 degrees last month and powered it up, The (Aurora) Beacon-News reported. It was a stressful moment because the magnet hasn’t been operated in such a long time and scientists couldn’t completely anticipate what would happen when it was cooled and turned on, project manager Chris Polly said.
“It was a huge relief to see it come back to life,” Polly said.
Fermilab officials plan to use the magnet in a physics experiment called Muon g-2, which will study the properties of muons, subatomic particles that live only 2.2 millionths of a second.
Polly said the next step is a process called “shimming” or to have a team of 12 people move pieces of metal in and out along the magnet to create a uniform magnetic field. It should take six to nine months.
That’s necessary before muons can be brought to the magnet, Polly said. The target date for that is March 2017, followed by another six months to collect the first data and another six months to analyze it.
“You have to be very patient in particle physics,” Polly said.
The results of the experiment could create new discoveries in the realm of particle physics.