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Transporting a 15-Meter-Wide, 600-Ton Magnet Cross Country 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-take-a-lot-of-stamps dept.
necro81 writes "Although its Tevatron particle accelerator has gone dark, Fermi Laboratory outside Chicago is still doing physics. A new experiment, called muon g-2 will investigate quantum mechanical behavior of the electron's heavier sibling: the muon. Fermi needs a large ring chamber to store the muons it produces and investigates, and it just so happens that Brookhaven National Laboratory outside NYC has one to spare. But how do you transport a delicate, 15-m diameter, 600-ton superconducting magnet halfway across the country? Very carefully."
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Transporting a 15-Meter-Wide, 600-Ton Magnet Cross Country

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  • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:42PM (#43786561)

    FTA: "The Muon g-2 ring, an electromagnet made of steel and aluminum, begins its 3,200-mile trek from New York in early June. From there, it will sail by barge down the East Coast, around Florida's tip into the Gulf of Mexico, then up the Mississippi River until it arrives in Illinois."

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nukenbar (215420) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:45PM (#43786629)

    Like most hung things, it is easier to take via water, even if the ground sea distance is much greater than a straight line approach.

    The majority of the trip will be via barge.

  • It's not a magnet (Score:4, Informative)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:02PM (#43786921)

    It's not a magnet, it's an electromagnet, which just makes it a large and sensitive piece of equipment rather than a big magnet.

    When I saw the headline and summary, I thought they were going to have to take special precautions to stay away from metals and other materials that could be affected by the huge magnet.

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:4, Informative)

    by funky49 (182835) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:05PM (#43786963) Homepage

    Basically they are moving the instrument to a facility that can make a better stream of particles to steer into it.

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

    by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:13PM (#43787079) Homepage

    We usually prefer airplanes to buses (lots cheaper, given the time value of money.....)

    The cost of running the experiment again at Brookhaven (which had been our initial idea) would be significantly higher than moving it to Fermilab, because of the cost of required accelerator upgrades at Brookhaven. Fermilab has protons to spare, and the experiment fits into the larger muon program at the Lab. http://www.fnal.gov/pub/science/experiments/intensity/ [fnal.gov]

  • by cffrost (885375) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:26PM (#43787247) Homepage

    It's a big electro magnet. Why can tilting it a couple of degrees break it?
    The article doesn't say as far as I can tell, so I can only assume it's because it was built from crappy parts, or assembled by idiots.

    It could be a Bitter electromagnet, [wikipedia.org] which are constructed from thin disks of porous copper.

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:27PM (#43787253)

    They're moving the magnet to a particle accelerator. It's already at one, and it generated some interesting findings, but the particle accelerator it's currently at is too weak to give a margin of error low enough to safely call it a discovery.

    Thus, they're moving it to a more powerful accelerator, since moving the accelerator to it is not exactly an option.

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

    by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:40PM (#43787469) Homepage

    Both routes were considered, but I'm not sure why one was chosen over the other. Presumably input from the companies bidding on the contract had something to do with it.

  • by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:48PM (#43787595) Homepage

    Well, we might be idiots, but that's not the problem. It's a set of three very large superconducting coils, custom wound on-site in the 1990s, built into cryostats that can't be disassembled, and being moved as a set of monolithic units. They were never designed or intended to be moved, and significant engineering work has gone into determining the mechanical loads they can be safely subjected to.

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:50PM (#43787641)

    For starters, this thing weighs 600 tons. It would have to cross hundreds of bridges, most of which are probably not rated for 600 tons. And of course it is much wider than normal travel lanes and would move very slowly, creating a traffic nightmare. Then there is the can`t tilt more than a few degrees, which would make crossing mountains kind of hard.

  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @06:26PM (#43788115)

    If you read the article, it says that shipping is 1/50 of the cost of building a new one.

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mrvan (973822) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @06:49PM (#43788381)

    As sibling says, bridges and hills are a problem. Major waterways are generally constructed so that bridges are either really high (as in 30ft+) or have some part that can be opened.

    Anything that fits on a truck is easy to transport over land, but stuff that is significantly larger and can't be moved in parts is difficult over land. On the water, major ports and waterways are pretty wide. For example, the coast pilot linked a boatnerd.com [1] (who doesn't love that url) says for the mississipi - illinois waterway connection:

    (10) Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway-
    (11) depth, 9 feet (2.7);
    (12) width, 80 feet (24.38 meters);
    (13) length, 600 feet (182.88 meters);
    (14) vertical clearance 17 feet (5.18 meters);

    So, you can transport something that is roughly 20x150 meters. Some random internet site [2] says that "The standard barge is 195 feet long, 35 feet wide, and can be used to a 9-foot draft. Its capacity is 1500 tons. Some of the newer barges today are 290 feet by 50 feet, double the capacity of earlier barges." So, if we get one of them "newer barges', we can transport something that is 75 x 15 meters and weighs 3000 tonnes using equipment that is standard on the infrastructure.

    A random wiki quote [3] says that "In the United States, 80,000 pounds (36,287 kg) is the maximum allowable legal gross vehicle weight without a permit.". So, with standard equipment you can transport something on the ground up to 36 metric tons, or about 0.1 percent of what fits on the barge*. Of course, you *can* transport something bigger than that, but then you get into serious logistic operations with special equipment, road closures, etc etc, while the barge can just be loaded up and sail away.

    tl;dr: roads are made for fast and flexible transportation of relatively small amounts of cargo; shipping is made for slow transportation of bulk and large items.

    [1] http://www.boatnerd.com/facts-figures/cpgreat.htm [boatnerd.com]
    [2] http://www.caria.org/barges_tugboats.html [caria.org]
    [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-trailer_truck [wikipedia.org]

    *) I'm totally ignoring any possible short tonne, long tonne, metric tonne etc errors here, since that won't make a dent into a 3 orders of magnitude difference...

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:5, Informative)

    by LoRdTAW (99712) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @07:22PM (#43788721)

    It is a lot easier to move 600 tons by barge than by land. The size and weight makes it impossible to go over bridges and most roads. Not only is the weight highly concentrated, 1.2 million pounds for the magnet and probably another 300,000+ for the modular platform trailers & tractor but the width is nearly 50 feet. At that weight your speed is severely limited, always below 5 mph and you are limited to moving at night only. From the map, I would guess it might make its way south on floyd then onto a barge in the bay. I don't see how they could get it anywhere on the north shore unless they go up floyd to 25 and take lilco rd to use the docks at the power station (if it fits up those roads). From there its an easy trip on water. No bridges, narrow roads or worries about weight. Its open water until the Mississippi.

    You also have to take into account the cost and process to apply for permits. You have to plan the route in advance and have it approved by the DOT. By law you need a police escort for a load that large in NY, more money. Imagine planning a route for hundreds of miles involving police escorts, road closures, moving only at night, slow speeds and having to deal with routing around bridges (if possible) and maybe needing to reinforce bridges/overpasses. It can and has been done many times but its costly and time consuming. It can take upward of a year or more to plan a move that big.

  • by KGIII (973947) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @08:33PM (#43789235) Journal

    I'd not be surprised if they were using the Gimbaldi family. They do a good job actually and move a lot of the more famous things. They have some neat rigs and custom moving equipment that they've developed over the years.

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @08:42PM (#43789285) Homepage Journal

    Well, we might be idiots, but that's not the problem. It's a set of three very large superconducting coils, custom wound on-site in the 1990s, built into cryostats that can't be disassembled, and being moved as a set of monolithic units. They were never designed or intended to be moved, and significant engineering work has gone into determining the mechanical loads they can be safely subjected to.

    How much would it cost to build another one at say, Fermilab?

    Here's a hint: that information is in the article.

  • Re:Cross country? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @12:30AM (#43790687)

    I asked the head of Emmert (the shipping company) this question a few weeks ago. From that brief conversation, it is my understanding that the Southern/Mississippi route was chosen despite the longer distance for safety reasons, which is the primary concern. The claim was that they could hug the coast and pull into safe harbor in the event of inclement conditions, while the Northern route up the St. Lawrence, etc. has stretches where the barge would not have that option and was, therefore, riskier.

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