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Final piece of large magnet built at Fermilab arrives at Jefferson Lab

Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer shakes hands with Jefferson Lab Director Hugh Montgomery by a superconducting coil and its development and fabrication team at Fermilab. Six coils have been made and shipped to Jefferson Lab for use in the CLAS12 experiment. Photo: Reidar Hahn

A group of Fermilab physicists and engineers was faced with a unique challenge when Jefferson Lab asked them to make the superconducting coils for an upgrade to their CEBAF Large Acceptance Spectrometer experiments. These are some of the largest coils Fermilab has ever built.

Despite obstacles, the sixth coil was completed, packed on a truck and sent to Jefferson Lab to become the last piece of the torus magnet in the lab's CLAS detector. It arrived on Thursday.

The CLAS detector's upgrade (CLAS12) will allow it to accept electron beams of up to 11 GeV, matching the beam energy of the Virginia laboratory's CEBAF electron accelerator after five passes. These improvements will allow Jefferson Lab to more accurately study the properties of atomic nuclei.

A major component of the enhanced detector is the torus magnet, which will be made from the six superconducting coils created at Fermilab. Aside from cleaning, insulating and winding the coils, one of the most important parts of the process is vacuum epoxy impregnation. During this step, air and water vapor are removed from the coils and replaced with an epoxy.

This process is particularly difficult when you're working on magnets as big as the CLAS12 coils, which are 14 feet long and seven feet wide. Fermilab's Magnet Systems Department fabrication team, the group responsible for making these massive coils, encountered a major obstacle at the end of March 2014 after finishing the first practice coil.

What they found were dry areas within the coil where the epoxy couldn't penetrate. These were places where the coils weren't fixed into place, meaning they could move and generate heat and resistance. This can lead to magnet quench, the transition from superconducting to a normal state — a highly undesirable consequence.

The Fermilab group and Jefferson Lab staff collaborated to come up with a solution. By trying new materials, new temperature profiles and adjusting the time that the epoxy was left to sit and be adsorbed, the team was able to prevent the dry areas from forming.

Fred Nobrega, the lead engineer at Fermilab for the CLAS12 coil project, joined the effort last August.

"It was rewarding for me to join the project near its low point, be able to help get through the hurdle and see this completed," he said.

Production has been steady since December, with Fermilab sending roughly one coil a month to Jefferson Lab. Although the sixth coil will become the last piece of the torus magnet, the project isn't complete just yet — the ultimate goal is to make eight identical coils, the six for the magnet and two spares.

"We're succeeding because we have great people and a productive collaboration with Jefferson Lab, who helped us at difficult moments," said George Velev, head of the Magnet Systems Department. "We worked together on a tough problem and now we see the results."

Diana Kwon

In Brief

Particle accelerators: current and future applications

Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer discusses particle accelerator applications at the Midwest launch of the Accelerator Stewardship Test Facility Pilot Program held by Fermilab and Argonne on April 28. View the video. Video: Fermilab

On Tuesday, about 100 representatives from industry, universities and laboratories met at Fermilab for the Midwest launch of the Accelerator Test Facility Stewardship Pilot Program. The meeting was jointly hosted by Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab to provide an opportunity for potential partners to learn more about the labs' accelerator capabilities and infrastructure for the purpose of identifying specific candidate projects for the pilot program.

The pilot program plenary presentations are available online. Following the plenary session, attendees toured facilities at both labs and "speed dated" with accelerator experts.

Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer kicked off the meeting with a presentation on current particle accelerator applications in industry, medicine and national security. He also discussed potential future accelerator applications. View a video of his presentation.

Photo of the Day

Spring sky

Birds fly over the Fermilab Village. Photo: Sudeshna Ganguly, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
In the News

Kept in the dark

From Nature, April 30, 2015

According to the standard model of cosmology, most of the matter in the known universe does not significantly absorb or emit electromagnetic radiation. The favoured explanation for the abundance of such dark matter is weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) that pervade the universe, but interact only through gravity and the weak force. Probing matter that interacts so weakly, however, presents significant challenges. The Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory has now placed strict limits on the possible strength of interactions between protons and WIMPs.

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In the News

Dark matter is necessary for the origin of life

From Forbes, April 29, 2015

When you look up past the stars of our Milky Way and out at the galaxies beyond, it might surprise you to learn that most of what we see isn't most of what's actually there. Sure, in our Solar System, 99.8 percent of the mass is in our Sun, and astronomy has taught us a tremendous amount about how stars work. So you might think that if you measure all the starlight — of all different types and wavelengths — coming from each individual galaxy we observe, we can figure out how much mass is in there.

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