University of Wisconsin-Madison Physical Sciences Lab

Archive for 2013

Surrounded by ice, but no water

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Once again PSL is at the South Pole, but this season it is something all new, the project involves civil engineering and the customer is Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is well known for aeronautics, aerospace, defense systems, engineering and design, just to name a few areas of expertise. In 2011, Lockheed Martin became the new contractors for the United States Antarctic Program, which is managed by the National Science Foundation.

In December of last year, Lockheed contacted PSL on some issues that needed to be addressed at the South Pole. Some of the emergency egress shafts for the under ice utility tunnels were in need of some help. A new larger access hole to one of the rod wells was also needed, PSL’s expertise with working in South Pole conditions along with the success of their hot water drill makes PSL one of the world’s leading experts on drilling and this is how the connection was made.

After much contract negotiating along with technical meetings and studies of the tasks that needed to be accomplished, Darrell Hamilton, Jeff Cherwinka and Terry Benson, are on the ice once again.

But this is where the story really takes a turn and proves PSL expertise. After an unexpected power outage due to generator issues, the water supply pump in the rod well would not restart leaving the station and its population without a source for water. The pump got stuck about 170 feet below the surface during the attempt to remove it for replacement. The station manager needed to warn everyone that they could not shower or do laundry and the galley switched to paper plates to ration water. With help from Darrell, Jeff and Terry along with others from IceCube and the traverse team, they were able to deliver hot water to the area where the pump was stuck and melt it free. After the pump was removed, the hole was then reamed to enlarge it so a new pump could be installed. The new down hole camera system was used to determine just where the water was needed though a minimal amount of water was used, since there was not a lot of water available. The new pump was installed and station operations returned to normal after just two days.

The email from the contractor states it best:

Sent: Thu 11/28/2013 11:20 PM
To: POL-SouthPoleAll
Subject: Water Update


After a couple very long days the heroes amongst us have restored the Water Well to normal operations. Water restrictions are lifted. Shower at will.

After yesterday morning’s brief power outage, the pump in the Rodwell, our primary supply of water, failed restart. Then, pulling the pump became stalled because of some of the insulation broke loose and the pump bundle became jammed in irregularities in the well shaft. An impressive group of people came together worked through the last two days and nights to free the pump and get it up out of the ice, reamed the hole out, and deployed a new pump. We are fortunate in the timing as we are lucky to have the PSL team, IceCube experts and the traverse team here all at the time. We used the traverse’s hot water drill in the solution and no one knows ice holes like the PSL team who were kind with their expertise. Thank you all for the teamwork, the long hours and the reminder of what great people this program attracts.

A hearty thank you goes out to PSL, the traverse team and the station staff, all the people who pitched in and worked two very long days to solve the problem. Your team work, expertise and collaboration is truly impressive.

Please thank a water hero when you see them.

Let’s Go to the Movies

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

“Chasing the Ghost Particle: From the South Pole to the Edge of the Universe” will premiere at the Milwaukee Public Museum Thursday, Nov. 21st. The 30 minute movie chronicles the construction of the ICECUBE Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole, and will play for two shows nightly from December 5th thru January 30 at the museum.

The ICECUBE project uses detectors frozen deep into the ice at the South Pole to find high energy particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos can come from exploding stars and black holes, and high energy neutrinos can teach us about these extra-terrestial phenomena.

CMS Upgrades and Repairs for More Energy

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Since the discovery of the Higgs boson last year, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has shut down for upgrades. These upgrades, during what CERN calls Long Shutdown 1 (LS1), will more than double the energy of the LHC from 7 trillion electron volts (TeV) to 15 TeV.

During LS1, the LHC is also doing repairs. Recently PSL engineer Dan Wenman went to CERN to do some repairs on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS). One of the repairs performed was to fix some cathode strip chambers (CSC), which detect the position of passing muon particles.

The CSCs were removed using a PSL-designed apparatus, nicknamed the “Bart-o-Matic”, which is designed specifically to hold the chambers during installation and removal.

Copper…in flux

Friday, October 18th, 2013

PSL recently replaced and resoldered copper tubing on two diffusion pumps for UW Medical Physics. PSL originally soldered the copper tubing on the pumps seven years ago, and over time the copper tubing corroded to the point that the tubing had to be replaced.

A pump with the new copper tubing.

How the Higgs Boson was found

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Photo of CMS disk being lowered into CMS cavern

PSL will host UW-Madison Physics Professor Wesley Smith for a talk on finding the Higgs Boson. The talk will be held at PSL on Oct. 10th, at 11:00 am in the PSL large conference room. Appetizers and beverages will be provided.

PSL was instrumental in the design of the Compact Muon Solenoid of the Large Hadron Collider. The discovery of the Higgs Boson was Science Magazine’s “Breakthrough of the Year” for 2012.

See the poster.

On the Cutting Edge

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

PSL is responsible for fabricating the Anode Panel Assembly prototype for the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment. One of the key identifying characteristics of the APA is the thousands of thin copper wires wrapped around the APA panel.

Each of those tiny wires is supported by a fiberglass edge board, where the wire sits in the valley between two teeth.

In the following video, PSL instrument maker Bart Dana cuts the board edge profile two boards at a time on his CNC machine (requires Quicktime).

Holding it just right.

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Dr. Carol Mitchell is the Director of the Diagnostic Imaging Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging Programs at UW Milwaukee. Some of the research that she is involved with requires taking a measurement with an ultrasonic sensor in each of the cells of six-cell culture plates. In order to get consistent results the operator must lower the sensor to the same depth, within a few thousandths of an inch, into each cell. She asked if PSL could help design some equipment to assist with this job.

At the heart of the device that we produced is a Starrett height gauge – an instrument for making very accurate measurements of part dimensions above a flat surface. We mounted this device to a granite surface plate and added a sensor holder in place of the height measuring probe that is normally part of the device. When the sensor is at the desired height the device is zeroed. The sensor is then lowered down in each cell so that the readout comes back to zero and a reading taken. An adjustable stop was added so that the sensor could just be lowered to the stop (the readout is then used just as a check on the sensor height). This is a faster way of reaching a consistent height.

Mike Hughes, a machinist at PSL, did much of the actual design of the device.

Measuring Tension

Monday, August 26th, 2013

The Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE) is a project designed to measure the changes in neutrinos from their source at Fermi National Laboratory to detectors located at the Homestake Mine in Lead, SD. The detectors are thin gauge copper wire bound steel frames, called Anode Plane Assemblies (APAs), submerged in tanks of liquid argon.

PSL has been tasked with building the large APAs. Before the full-size APAs were cleared for construction, PSL built a 40% scale prototype to put through a number of tests. Two of those tests included submerging the panels in tanks of liquid nitrogen to see how well the panels would react under very cold temperatures. After successfully completing those tests, PSL engineer Dan Wahl and technician Jonathan Heise used lasers to check the tension of each copper wire to determine if the wire winding process used to build the prototype would be acceptable.

The Askaryan Radio Array Drill Season 2013

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

For PSL engineers, designing equipment for use in extreme frigid temperatures involves meticulous consideration to the function and design of the equipment.  When the South Pole is the destination, other details become very complicated, for example the size when shipping. Everything that is sent to the Pole must be able to fit on a military cargo plane. Sending crates and boxes requires a lot of work, but items as large as the Askaryan Radio Array hose reel requires extensive planning and thought.

Instrument Technician Darrell Hamilton explained the complications involved with the ARA hose reel. Two additional size challenges were calculated when designing the reel: shipment and final assembly in the large equipment bay at the South Pole. Jeff Cherwinka was the lead engineer for the hose reel and he designed it with both space requirements in mind. For the reel to fit on the cargo plane it had to fold in on itself. Once it arrived at the South Pole, the hose reel had to undergo final assembly and be raised into an upright position. When raised into its upright position the hose reel now had to be able to pass through the bay door, however the reel gave a false appearance of not clearing the large maintenance bay door. Despite the team’s prior calculations on clearance, measurements were taken several times before the move took place. As Darrell said, “The clearance was minimal to come out of the building.”

Pretesting of the drill and hose reel took place close to the station before moving to remote areas and testing of the new drill went very well.  Darrell explains that the drill is a new technology that has not been used previously. He explains, “The method that was employed for dry hole drill was to have two hoses descend in tandem. One hose supplied the hot water for melting ice, while the second hose returned the melt water to the surface to be reheated and reused.”

Not only were the pretests successful, but the entire drilling season. Each of the holes were drilled to a depth of 200 meters and met all requirements. A total of thirteen holes were drilled at two stations located two kilometers apart, each station contains six holes that contain data acquisition electronics.

If future funding allows, the entire ARA project will contain 37 stations and will cover an area of 100 square kilometers, 100 times the size of the IceCube project.

New PSL Newsletter for Summer 2013

Friday, July 12th, 2013

  • Upgrades at CERN

    The Large Hadron Collider is shutdown for two years for maintenance and upgrades. PSL engineer Dan Wenman traveled to Geneva for some maintenance work, and will be returning soon to perform the upgrades.

  • Innovative Drill, Instrumentation and Hose Reel for ARA

    With all the success behind the IceCube drill, it might seem simple to use the same design and build a similar but smaller hot water drill for ARA.

  • Making Parts Work in Harmony

    Sitting across the table and listening to Ron Smith discuss his years of work, you see someone who really appreciates the coincidences that brought him to PSL.

  • From a Galaxy Far Far Away

    The IceCube neutrino telescope detected two high power neutrinos that researchers believe are from further out in our galaxy, or are from another galaxy.

  • Safety Manager Bruce Neumann

    After nearly twelve years of work at the Kegonsa Research Campus, Bruce Neumann is leaving us for new opportunities.

  • Bring Your Child To Work Day

    Dan Wenman’s daughter, Emma was here to see what it is like to be a PSL engineer.