Sections of Magnets for Superconducting Super Collider

The principal objects in accession no. 2012.0186 in the NMAH Modern Physics Collection are representations for public display of key magnet components of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), a large U.S. Department of Energy particle accelerator facility that was under construction from 1990 to 1993 in Ellis County, Texas, approx. 25 miles south of Dallas. The SSC was designed to produce collisions of opposing beams of protons at energies of 20 trillion electron-Volts (TeV) for experiments to advance the fundamental understanding of matter and energy. The main accelerator ring was to be located in an underground concrete tunnel with a 54-mile oval path that would encircle the City of Waxahachie. The SSC project was terminated by the U.S. Congress in October 1993, largely due to budgetary issues. The object shown in the image is a display model of a short section of a parallel pair of superconducting dipole magnets in their vacuum vessels, cut-through to show in cross-section the cold mass sub assembly (beam pipe, magnet coils, collar, yoke) and the cryogenic system conduits and insulation.
Background on SSC magnet technology
The SSC main ring design contains the two parallel proton beam pipes, each under high vacuum and encased in powerful electromagnets, in order to confine the protons to travel in their respective, opposing, paths around the ring. The two proton beams are accelerated in opposite directions over many million transits around the ring using precisely-timed energy bursts from radiofrequency cavities. When the beams achieve the desired energy, they can be brought into collision in several experimental halls located around the ring, where highly sensitive detectors capture data on the resulting showers of subatomic particles.
A sequence of electromagnets produces the necessary magnetic fields to both guide and focus the proton beams. Dipole magnets produce the field configurations that bend the beams of electrically-charged particles (protons) on their track in the beam pipe around the oval ring, and quadrupole magnets produce the field configurations that narrowly focus the beams along the central axis of the beam pipes. As designed, the SSC main ring was to use 4,326 15.8 meter long dipole magnets and 1,012 5.9 meter quadrupole magnets.
High electrical currents are required in the electromagnet coils in order to produce the strong magnetic fields that are, in turn, required to guide the proton beams in their transits at such high energies. The SSC employs superconducting technology to enable essentially unhindered current flow in the magnet coils. The coils are wound with cables that contain superconducting wire. A strand of the wire contains filaments of niobium-titanium alloy embedded in a copper matrix. For superconductivity to occur in nobium-titanium, the coils must be cooled to extremely low temperatures. Thus, a cryogenic cooling system with liquid helium and liquid nitrogen blankets the coils and iron cores of the magnets.
A similar accelerator technology is used at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) now operating at CERN, the European Laboratory for High Energy Physics, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Currently not on view
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
copper (overall material)
cardboard (overall material)
plexiglas (overall material)
iron (overall material)
insulation (overall material)
baseplate under lower support arm: 18 in; 45.72 cm
upper plexiglas disk: 28 in; 71.12 cm
upper yoke assembly: 13 3/8 in; 33.9725 cm
beam pipe: 1 5/8 in; 4.1275 cm
center-to center of magnet assemblies (vertical): 33 3/4 in; 85.725 cm
vacuum cylinder; rear edge of front junction ring to rear edge of cylinder: 13 11/16 in; 34.76625 cm
overall: 75 1/2 in; 191.77 cm
arm carrying upper magnet section: 39 1/16 in; 99.21875 cm
arm carrying lower magnet section: 39 in; 99.06 cm
front of disk clamp to front edge of cardboard cylinder: 18 3/8 in; 46.6725 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
US Department of Energy Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) Laboratory
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Modern Physics
Science & Mathematics
Measuring & Mapping
Modern Physics
Energy & Power
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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