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Large Magnet Moves in to Bldg. 50

By Rich McManus

Photos by Bill Branson

The soon-to-open Louis Stokes Laboratories, otherwise known as Bldg. 50, received one of its first tenants Mar. 1 when a huge magnet used in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy was moved out of its temporary home in Bldg. 13, where it had spent the past 2 years, and was lowered literally "down the hatch" into a special NMR suite in the basement of Bldg. 50.

The 18.8 Tesla magnet looms large on the bed of a trailer on which the machine was transported from Bldg. 13 to almost-completed Bldg. 50.

A crane hoists the magnet off the trailer for deposit through a roof hatch in Bldg. 50's NMR suite, which is on the building's northeast corner.
The 5-ton magnet, built by a company called Bruker in Germany, is one of two huge twins that will occupy the suite along with six smaller magnets already scattered at various locations on campus. The second 18.8 Tesla, 800 MHz machine, worth almost $2 million, is on order for delivery by summer, and will belong to NHLBI and NIDCR spectroscopists.

The powerful, sensitive instruments are expensive to move — some $300,000 is budgeted to truck the seven on-campus magnets to their new home in 50. Three of the smaller magnets are now in Bldg. 3, and will migrate to 50 by summertime.

Workmen guide the 5-ton magnet through the hatch. The hatch enables machines to be moved into and out of the building with relative ease.

The behemoth moved on Mar. 1 is shared by the heart institute and NIDDK scientists Angela Gronenborn, Marius Clore and Ad Bax, who is chief of the section on biophysical NMR.

Before moving the magnet, scientists had to de-energize it and let it warm up to room temperature during a 2-week period. During operation, the magnet is cooled to 2 degrees Kelvin by pumped liquid helium. At full power, the magnet "has a stored energy comparable to a 15-ton truck barreling down the highway at 70 mph," Bax said.

Workers secure the delicate magnet in the NMR suite. Overhead, a special steel "rolling-beam crane" enables accurate placement of the magnets within the suite.

Bax, whose office is across the street from Bldg. 50 in Bldg. 5, said he can "hop over there easily when I need to" to adjust the instrument.

While the 800 MHz magnet was in residence in Bldg. 13, it was not idly waiting for completion of Bldg. 50's sophisticated NMR suite. It was plugged in and working. "It has been extremely useful to us," noted Bax.

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