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Jefferson Lab Super High Momentum Spectrometer Shield House

Our first project in particle physics.

The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility—or the Jefferson Lab (as locals know it)—is a 214-acre national laboratory used to conduct experiments into the nature of matter. In other words, it’s a playground for very serious scientists, housing some very serious equipment.

Jefferson Labs is home to the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, or CEBAF. The CEBAF uses incredibly strong electromagnetic fields to accelerate subatomic particles (electrons), speeding them along a track before slamming them into other particles—usually, atoms of an element that the lab is studying. By recording the results of these collisions, scientists gain a greater understanding of how an atom—and, by extension, the world around us—is built.

It’s a difficult process, to be sure.

Components of the CEBAF have to be incredibly cold—over 452 degrees below zero. The Jefferson Lab contains the world’s largest refrigerator of liquid helium, which scientists use to cool things off.

Also, once the scientists create one of these collisions, pieces of the atom go flying off in all directions. This is what scientists want to happen; it’s how they get results. However, these atomic pieces are charged with energy, and have the potential to seriously damage the surrounding lab equipment. Given the sensitive nature of this specialized (and expensive) equipment, avoiding damage is a high priority.



Scientists at the Jefferson Lab turned to Hylton Builders to help construct a protective chamber for the Super High Momentum Spectrometer; one of the powerful, essential, and monumentally expensive instruments used to record subatomic collision data.

Using a new, patented mixture of concrete comprised of boron carbide instead of the standard rock-based mix, Hylton Builders constructed a cement “house” to hold the Super High Momentum Spectrometer. The boron in the concrete absorbs neutron radiation from the experiments, protecting the spectrometer from supercharged subatomic debris during the collision process.

Hylton Builders was the first construction company in the world to build with this kind of concrete—it’s that new.

Read more about Jefferson Labs’ CEBAF, and learn more about  our specialized project in Hall C.

Jefferson Labs, Newport News, VA

Year Built:


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