LANCASTER, Pa. — Thermo Pride oil furnaces have been selected to heat 10 mobile drilling structures as part of the National Science Foundation IceCube project at the South Pole. IceCube is a high-energy neutrino telescope, capable — scientists hope — of detecting the subatomic particles that promise a new window to the most distant events in the universe.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison leads the international collaboration of 23 institutions from around the United States and the world on this project.

To build the telescope, scientists must first drill as many as 80 2.5-kilometer-deep holes in the polar ice to deploy strings of photomultiplier tubes that will transform the Antarctic ice into an enormous detector that will be the heart of the telescope. Drillers will use a jet of hot water to melt a hole into the ice to deploy a string of 60 optical modules on a long electrical cable. These modules will be connected to a single processing facility on the surface, creating a telescope out of over a cubic kilometer of Antarctic ice — the IceCube.

The oil furnaces will operate to maintain drilling, pumping, and test equipment at acceptable levels in the harsh conditions of the Antarctic where “summer” temperatures reach between –30 and –50 degrees F. A modified JP-8 jet fuel will be used as the energy source on customized Beckett oil burners. The Thermo Pride furnace components will also be modified to withstand the low start-up temperatures.

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Publication date: 08/04/2003