How Do You Transport A Huge, 17-Ton Superconducting Magnet? Video Explains The Fascinating Details

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Parts for this type of apparatus are almost always difficult to make. Delivering them to their final destination, on the other hand, maybe just be as problematic. In a video posted by YouTube channel Real Life Lore, you’ll see the trip of a 17-ton superconducting magnet ring with a diameter of roughly 16 meters, which was designed to be the focal point of Fermilab’s Muon g-2 subatomic particle experiment.

In 2013, a team of movers faced logistical hurdles when transporting a 50-foot magnet from Long Island, New York, to Fermilab west of Chicago. Transporting the massive, hefty, and exceedingly sensitive magnet was “one of the most difficult transportation operations ever attempted in the history of the United States,” according to RealLifeLore.

The g-2 Muon Magnet Ring on a trip.
The g-2 Muon Magnet Ring, Image credit: Reidar Hahn / Fermilab

The 17-ton weight isn’t a significant deal in and of itself, but when you spread it out over a 52-foot radius, you’ll need a four-lane highway merely to fit the load without hitting the edges. That’s why the logistics team had to drive for three nights in a row to cover the 32-mile trip. The magnet was put onto a truck and transported 30 miles to Fermilab. 3,000 people threw a celebration to honor the delivery.

The magnet was loaded onto a special flatbed truck and transported to a nearby marina, where it was craned onto a barge. The barge traveled south along the east coast, past Florida, and west to Mobile, Alabama, for a month. It then continued up the river system until it arrived in Illinois.

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