The following story was originally published by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

Argonne to Recycle Magnets From Advanced Photon Source in New Physics Experiment at Brookhaven

Argonne is recycling 700 magnets as its Advanced Photon Source undergoes an upgrade, and the old magnets will be used for the Electron-Ion Collider

By Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory

Technicians wearing hardhats and bright yellow shirts rig magnet enlarge

Magnets from the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory arrive at Brookhaven National Laboratory for a new life in the future Electron-Ion Collider (EIC). The recycling effort will save the EIC project close to ten million dollars.

Like cats, magnets for physics experiments can have many lives.

In 2015, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory repurposed two MRI magnets as part of a physics experiment to look at the fundamental properties of a particle called a muon. In an even bigger magnet recycling success, today scientists at Argonne are helping to repurpose magnets swapped out from the laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) for use in a new machine being built in New York by two of Argonne’s sister DOE laboratories, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab).

The APS is undergoing an extensive upgrade, and the 30-year-old magnets from the facility’s storage ring are being replaced with more state-of-the-art technology. The original APS magnets still work perfectly well, however. Rather than being allowed to gather dust, Argonne plans to ship them to Brookhaven and Jefferson Lab, where they will be re-purposed for use as part of the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a state-of-the-art particle collider being led by those other two labs and that will be built at Brookhaven.

Magnets enlarge

Magnets from the original Advanced Photon Source electron storage ring, removed as part of a comprehensive update to the facility. These 30-year-old magnets will be repurposed in the Electron-Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory/Mark Lopez.)

The ability to use recycled magnets in lieu of new ones creates a taxpayer savings of approximately ten million dollars, said Brookhaven’s Christoph Montag, the system manager for EIC’s electron storage ring at Brookhaven. “I always had this pipe dream of building my machine from recycled parts,” he said. “It’s truly a win-win situation.”

“In building the EIC, scientists are taking almost every aspect of what we've ever learned about building accelerators and combining them all in one project. At Argonne, we’re contributing not just our magnets but also our expertise to the design of the facility.”

– John Byrd, Argonne National Laboratory

This collaboration serves as a prime example of the commitment of the DOE national laboratories to conducting groundbreaking experiments while at the same time maintaining cost-effective sustainable practices. “By repurposing these magnets, America’s leading scientific institutions can significantly reduce waste and save money while simultaneously advancing scientific frontiers,” said Argonne’s Jim Kerby, director of the APS Upgrade.

The EIC will be a groundbreaking machine for nuclear physics. By smashing electrons into protons and other low-mass and heavier ions, scientists hope to gain new insights into the fundamental structure of matter. With these repurposed magnets, the machine will stand poised to make pivotal discoveries.

“The EIC will be the most ambitious accelerator project that DOE has ever done,” said Argonne's John Byrd, director of the APS Accelerator Systems Division. “In building the EIC, scientists are taking almost every aspect of what we've ever learned about building accelerators and combining them all in one project. At Argonne, we’re contributing not just our magnets but also our expertise to the design of the facility.”

In total, the EIC will acquire roughly 700 magnets from Argonne. Since several major scientific facilities around the world are also undergoing construction or upgrades, getting recycled magnets helps avoid any supply chain issues, Montag said.           

Magnets enlarge

The first of the original APS magnets to arrive at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. These magnets will be installed in the Electron-Ion Collider at Brookhaven. (Image by Brookhaven National Laboratory.)

The magnets that the EIC team are acquiring from Argonne largely fall into two different categories: quadrupoles and sextupoles. In an electron storage ring – like that of both the APS and the EIC – quadrupole magnets act like lenses to help to focus  the electron beam, preventing it from spreading out, while sextupole magnets correct any aberration in the electron beam introduced by the quadrupoles.

According to EIC Associate Project Manager James Fast of Jefferson Lab, EIC scientists will only need to slightly recondition the magnets in order for them to be usable in the EIC. “It’s incredibly fortunate that the APS magnets could pretty much just be swapped right in,” he said. “It’s an almost perfect match.”

Fast said that the magnet girders containing the quadrupoles will initially go to Jefferson Lab for reconditioning while the ones containing sextupoles will be sent to Brookhaven.

As Cynthia Rock, director of Argonne’s Nuclear and Waste Management division, noted, “It’s amazing to think that these magnets, which were purchased in the early ‘90s for a specific application, could find a whole new purpose 30 years later to continue to deliver groundbreaking science.”

Storage ring magnets enlarge

Two of the original APS storage ring magnets in storage at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia following their arrival from Argonne. (Image by Jefferson Lab/Aileen Devlin.)

About the Advanced Photon Source

The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive X-ray light source facilities. The APS provides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use the APS to produce over 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. APS scientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at the APS.

This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

2023-21482  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom