‘Celebrity’ arrives in Kannapolis: One of world’s strongest magnets installed at research campus
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó The 950 has arrived.
The N.C. Research Campus took delivery Monday on the Avance II 950 US2, one of the world’s strongest magnets and the celebrity occupant of the Core Lab basement.
The instrument, a 950 megahertz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer with the strongest actively shielded superconducting magnet in the world, puts the Research Campus at the forefront of the biotechnology industry even before scientists in downtown Kannapolis have conducted a single experiment.
“It’s exciting to have the first NMR 950 deployed in the United States right here,” said Dr. Steven Colman, interim chief of operations for the David H. Murdock Research Institute.
The world’s first 950 went to Frankfurt, Germany. Kannapolis has the second. A third machine will arrive in Paris next month.
“It’s smaller than I thought it would be,” said James Ewing, who walked over from his home on Ridge Avenue to watch the delivery. “One person can save a city, and that’s what I think Murdock is doing.”
Research Campus founder David H. Murdock, billionaire owner of Castle & Cooke and Dole Food Co., bought the eight-ton instrument last summer and donated it to his research institute, which owns and operates the Core Lab.
The 950 is the flagship in an armada of NMR equipment in Kannapolis that includes four other systems. It will allow researchers to view molecules at an unprecedented resolution.
German manufacturer Bruker Biospin shipped the instrument about six weeks ago to the Port of Baltimore. ARK Machinery Movers trucked the pieces to Kannapolis, where four Bruker engineers were waiting to assemble it.
“This is a unique site because every system is arriving at once,” said Chris Knapp, a Bruker engineer from California. “That is huge.”
A small crowd of campus scientists and construction workers watched a 100-ton crane hoist the magnet while engineers removed shipping restraints and pulled off plastic wrap.
Phyllis Beaver, campus marketing director, came on her day off to watch.
“I just couldn’t stay away,” she said. “It’s addictive.”
The crane slowly lowered the magnet through a concrete delivery shaft into the basement NMR suite, where engineers will spend the next month assembling, cooling and energizing four systems.
They will install a fifth system on the fourth floor.
In the basement, engineers floated the 950 on air casters, moving it into position.
The instrument will stand about 14 feet high on permanent legs, and a platform surrounding it will allow scientists to reach various probes.
“The 950 is something really special,” said Doug Lyons, a Bruker engineer from Massachusetts. “The higher the field, the better the resolution.”
The Bruker engineering team included Wolfgang Welker and Christian Fritz, both based in Germany.
Another Bruker engineer will spend a year in Kannapolis tweaking the instruments.
Campus tenants like Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State University will rent time on the machines.
Dr. Leonard Spicer of Duke and Dr. John Cavanagh of N.C. State will oversee the NMR suite temporarily until Murdock’s research institute hires an NMR director, Colman said.
Spicer watched the installation Monday afternoon with his colleagues, who gave a thumbs up when workers turned the suspended magnet to reveal the words “Bruker 950 US2.”