PRIME lab installs two 13-ton magnets for faster, more accurate results


Thirteen-ton magnets and what will you get?

Magnet lowered
A six-ton part of a magnet is lowered into PRIME lab, some 40 two stories below ground.

More precise measurements and new capabilities from the tandem electrostatic accelerator and target room in the Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement (PRIME) laboratory.

Two 13-ton magnets were lowered into PRIME lab, located 40 feet below the Physics Building, on July 28. The magnets came in two pieces, each weighing six to seven tons. The huge magnets were purchased from the University of Minnesota and transported by truck to West Lafayette. Tri-Esco, a Lafayette heavy industrial contracting company, and Purdue facilities orchestrated the careful transportation of the magnets from topside to two stories underground. The funds came from the Purdue Office of the Executive Vice President for Research.

Concrete, earth and a steel “trapdoor” were removed, revealing a vertical passageway into the PRIME lab, which features ultra-sensitive equipment for measuring long-lived radionuclides with accelerator mass spectrometry. Purdue Facilities had measured carefully the clearances that Tri-Esco’s heavy-duty crane would need to operate. Several workers helped guide the huge magnets and their attached casings down into PRIME.

Architects that had strong foresight constructed PRIME in the late 1960s.

“Everybody knew that eventually there would have to be something brought down that couldn’t be brought down the freight elevator,” said Marc Caffee, professor of Physics and Astronomy and director of PRIME lab. “This has never been done.”

Once in PRIME, staff used steel rollers and the lab’s electric pallet jack as a motor to move the magnets in position within the 31,070 square-foot facility.

Over the next few months, the magnets will be cleaned, disassembled, tested and installed into the flight tube and analysis area.

Caffee explained: “They’re not only bigger in dimension but they will have bigger pole gaps, too. We should get better transmission of the beam through the magnets and this going to give us better counter statistics.”

He added that the current PRIME beam of ions – atoms that carry an electric charge drawn from a few milligrams of solid material – is only about an inch wide.

“As we implement new radionuclide measurements – I’m thinking manganese 53 and calcium 41 – these magnets are going to give us much better backgrounds because they have a bigger radius of curvature so they will recheck interferences much more efficiently.”

Marc Caffee with the magnets

Marc Caffee, professor Physics and Astronomy and director of PRIME lab, stands with the powerful magnets that will be installed to help improve its ion beam.

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