A monster magnet is making its way from the East Coast to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where scientists say it will be used to study subatomic particles.
The Muon g-2 ring is scheduled to arrive in Batavia on Friday after more than a month on the road, traveling from its former home at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island.
Scientists at Fermilab plan to replicate a 1990s Brookhaven experiment that could identify areas where our understanding of physics is incomplete, and see if there are hints of particles that haven't been seen before, said Fermilab spokesman Andre Salles.
The magnet consists of three interconnecting rings of aluminum with superconducting coils inside that allow scientists to create a precise magnetic field. It's the only magnet like it in the world, used to trap tiny particles called muons, Salles said.
Muons, produced when an atom is smashed by bombarding it with protons, are notoriously difficult to study because they only exist for 2 millionths of a second. Fermilab has the world's most powerful muon beam, so the move was made to bring together the equipment to produce the most precise data, he said.
The move cost $3 million, but building a new magnet would have cost Fermilab $30 million, Salles said.
Engineers worked closely with lab physicists to figure out how to transport the delicate magnet without allowing it to twist even 2 millimeters, which would render it unusable.
After traveling by barge around the tip of Florida, the magnet landed Saturday in Lemont, where it was put onto a truck for the final leg of the journey, which will occur at night between Tuesday and Friday.
Its transportation will cause rolling overnight road closings on several tollways, as it can take up to five lanes to move, and will be traveling at 10 mph.
"It's been quite the epic journey of the ring," Salles said.