Port of Indiana handles world’s largest liquid argon particle hunter

The ICARUS detector is removed from a ship in Burns Harbor, Indiana and prepared for the last leg of its journey to Fermilab. Photo: Rich Allen, Ports of Indiana.

ICARUS, the world’s largest liquid argon particle hunter, arrived July 11 at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor on the ocean vessel M/V Frieda, successfully completing the maritime portion of its trip from Europe. The instrument, the size of two semi-trucks, used by particle physicists to study neutrinos, among the smallest building blocks in nature and by far the most abundant particles in the universe, will be used for some of the most advanced science experiments in the world. ICARUS’ final destination is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois.

“The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor is a major hub for large-dimensional and megaproject cargo shipments,” said Port Director Ian Hirt. “The port’s facilities and location allow companies to ship cargoes by water directly into the Midwest, which can significantly reduce the transportation costs and permitting requirements for moving large loads over the highway. Because of the experience of Federal Marine Terminals, our general cargo terminal operator, this port has developed an enviable track record for handling large cargoes and established a worldwide reputation as a port-of-choice for specialty shipments.”

ICARUS was separated into two identical pieces before being loaded onto the Frieda in Antwerp, Belgium. When the two containers, each 66 feet long and weighing 63 tons, arrived at Burns Harbor, they were transloaded by the ship’s cranes directly onto waiting oversized truck trailers.

A neutrino detector, ICARUS’ job is to observe and record the results of neutrino collisions with particles of matter set in motion by another scientific instrument, an accelerator. By studying how neutrinos interact, scientists hope to understand more about the universe at the smallest scale. When reassembled at Fermilab and filled with 760 tons of liquid argon, ICARUS will be the world’s largest particle hunter of its kind and will also be the biggest of three neutrino detectors at the facility.

Members of the International Longshoremen’s Association unloaded the ICARUS and have been especially busy this shipping season handling oversized cargoes. From January through May, project cargoes at the port are up more than 225 percent over the same period last year. Most of the large-dimensional shipments this season have been wind tower sections, blades and other wind energy-related components from Spain and Brazil.

The detector departed the port by truck and arrived at Fermilab July 26.

Maritime Editorial