David Kirkpatrick

September 21, 2008

Large Hadron Collider down for two months

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:14 pm

I opted against blogging on the LHC’s electrical problem this week because any colossally complex piece of machinery is going to have some birthing pains at the outset.

This issue, however routine, is a little bigger deal. The LHC is mothballed for two months of repair following a helium leak. It is nice to blog about LHC problems and not have to deal with the doomsday fools claiming the world’s most sophisticated piece of scientific equipment is going to end life as we know it.

From the PhysOrg link:

“There has been an incident in a test. One section of the machine will have to be repaired,” James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), told AFP.

CERN said in a statement that a fault occurred on Friday afternoon, resulting in a “large helium leak into the tunnel.

“Preliminary investigations suggest that the most likely cause of the problem was a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, which probably melted at high current leading to mechanical failure,” it said.

There was no risk to people, added the centre, saying that a full probe was underway.

“There are people in the tunnel right now, we’ll be giving updates as soon as we can,” said Gillies.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was started on September 10, with physicists cheering the successful testing of a clockwise beam, comprising strings of protons, and then an anticlockwise beam in preparatory testing ahead of first collisions.

But the LHC had to be shut down a week later due to an electrical hitch that affected a cooling systemfor high-powered magnets designed to steer beams of particles around the LHC’s 27-kilometre (16.9-mile) circular tunnel.

The cooling system is important as the steering magnets in the LHC tunnel are chilled to as low as -271 degrees Celsius (-456.25 degrees Fahrenheit), which is close to absolute zero and colder than deep outer space.

At this extreme temperature, electrical currents overcome resistance, thus making it easier and cheaper to power electro-magnets.

You can hit this link for all my LHC blogging.

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