Gigantic magnet moved to permanent home at Fermilab

The behemoth floated by barge down the East Coast, around Florida, through the Gulf of Mexico, then up rivers and over interstates before landing in Batavia.

More than one year after completing its 3,200-mile journey, the massive Muon g-2 electromagnet moved into its new building Wednesday at Fermilab.

“It's fantastic. The whole crew has been working on this for a very long time and this is the exclamation point,” said Aria Soha, Fermilab installation manager.

More than 200 people gathered on the lawn to watch as the 15-ton electromagnet was moved at a turtle's pace into its new home. The process was very similar to moving a house, Soha said.

Now that the gigantic ring is in place, preparations will begin for the scientific work of studying the properties of muons, subatomic particles that exist for only about 2.2 millionths of a second, to search for hidden subatomic forces.

While the scientific work will move at the speed of light, getting to Batavia was anything but.

The magnet is 50 feet wide and weighs about the same as 7½ Ford Explorers. During the month it took to transport, the magnet couldn't twist more than an eighth of an inch without being permanently damaged.

The trip involved outrunning tropical weather in the Gulf and roadblocks as it traveled on a specially made flatbed truck at speeds of between 5 and 15 mph.

Moving the magnet was the government's way of being thrifty by repurposing something. The cost of the move by barge and truck was about $3.5 million; to build one from scratch would have cost 10 times that amount.

Daily Herald staff photographer Brian Hill contributed to this story.

  Workers make adjustments as the gigantic Muon g-2 electromagnet, which traveled from the East Coast to Fermilab a year ago, is moved Wednesday into its new building in Batavia. Brian Hill/
  Hundreds of onlookers watch as the gigantic Muon g-2 electromagnet is moved Wednesday into its new building at Fermilab. Brian Hill/
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