BATAVIA – When Rachel Osofsky saw a picture of a monitor readout on Sept. 22 in her email, she was thrilled.
Osofky, a graduate student in physics at the University of Washington in Seattle, was waiting to see if a large electromagnet would turn on after being dormant for roughly a decade.
The reading she saw in the picture signified that the 17-ton, 50-foot wide circular object was indeed operational.
“After all the work that went into making that happen, it was really exciting,” Fermilab researcher Brendan Kiburg said.
The magnet is an essential part of the Muon g-2 experiment. The experiment aims to study the properties of muons, or subatomic particles, so researchers can try to determine whether there are elementary particles beyond the ones already known.
“The point is that we are trying to build a better periodic table of the components of nature,” Kiburg said. “It’s research for knowledge’s sake.”
Researchers need the circular magnet so they can examine the interactions of the muons with a strong magnetic field.
The ring was built in the 1990s at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York for a similar experiment, one which found hints of new physics beyond what scientists have observed.
The magnet had to be transported 3,200 miles across the country in 2013 from Brookhaven to Fermilab through special arrangements involving night trips and road closures.
The magnet’s current home is in a new building on the Fermilab campus. Once placed in a magnetic field, the muons will figuratively race or spin about the area. The short-lived muons will be observed with instruments until they decay, Kiburg said.
Muons live for only 64 millionths of a second, and they will take 150 billionths of a second to move around the ring, Kiburg said.
The scientists have plenty of work to do before the experiments can begin by March 2017, said Aria Soha, installation manager for the Muon g-2 magnet,
Part of the work involves shimming, or shaping the magnetic field around the magnet. The staff is doing this by making physical changes around the ring to see if it increases or decreases the magnetic field variance around the ring, said Osofsky, who is working on preparations for the experiment.
“Some days you’re working with scissors, and some days the crane operator is working with the crane on it,” Osofsky said.
A total of 150 people are working on the experiment on- and offsite, not including several Fermilab staff helping with the preparations, Soha said. The experiment receives support from the Department of Energy, Soha said, and the department is the main source of funding for Fermilab.
Muons also will be used for a separate project located nearby known as the Mu2e, or the muon-to-electron conversion experiment.
On the web
To learn more about the magnet and the muon g-2 experiment, visit muon-g-2.fnal.gov.