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Freya Blekman | USLHC | USA

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The dice have been cast

This just came in from the CERN directorate:

LHC re-start scheduled for 2009

Geneva, 23 September 2008. Investigations at CERN following a large helium leak into sector 3-4 of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) tunnel have indicated that the most likely cause of the incident was a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator’s magnets. Before a full understanding of the incident can be established, however, the sector has to be brought to room temperature and the magnets involved opened up for inspection. This will take three to four weeks. Full details of this investigation will be made available once it is complete.

“Coming immediately after the very successful start of LHC operation on 10 September, this is undoubtedly a psychological blow,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar. “Nevertheless, the success of the LHC’s first operation with beam is testimony to years of painstaking preparation and the skill of the teams involved in building and running CERN’s accelerator complex. I have no doubt that we will overcome this setback with same degree of rigour and application.”

The time necessary for the investigation and repairs precludes a restart before CERN’s obligatory winter maintenance period, bringing the date for restart of the accelerator complex to early spring 2009. LHC beams will then follow.

Particle accelerators such as the LHC are unique machines, built at the cutting edge of technology. Each is its own prototype, and teething troubles at the start-up phase are therefore always possible.

“The LHC is a very complex instrument, huge in scale and pushing technological limits in many areas,” said Peter Limon, who was responsible for commissioning the world’s first large-scale superconducting accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermilab in the USA. “Events occur from time to time that temporarily stop operations, for shorter or longer periods, especially during the early phases.”

CERN has received similar words of support from several laboratories, including Germany’s DESY, home of the HERA superconducting particle accelerator, which ran from 1992 to 2007.

“We at DESY have been following the commissioning of the LHC with great excitement and have been very impressed with the success of the first day,” said Albrecht Wagner, DESY Director. “I am confident that our colleagues at CERN will solve the problem speedily and we will continue to support them as much as we can.”


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5 Responses to “The dice have been cast”

  1. dandin1 says:

    What happens to the other sectors untill the launch? Are their magnets still kept at 1.9k? Or is the effort to warm them up and cool them again worth more than the cost of the energy? (I mean, that’s a lot of Helium to be constantly compressing!) I know the field of the bloggers isn’t cryo, but that’s where all the action seem to be, so I’m wondering if anyone would know.
    CERN needs a blog like this one for the people working on hardware comissioning, I’m sure plenty of normal denizens of the Internet are interested!

  2. Colin says:

    As most people reading this page will understand, and most out in the world will not, it would have been a miracle if some type of failure did not happen. I think that Robert Aymar made a truly pithy observation, that the Machine is unique and “its own prototype”. Anyone that has been involved with even much lesser engineering challenges stands in awe of the team that designed and built this incredible machine. It was science fiction only a short time ago.
    See you in the Spring.
    (But it will be a long Winter…)

  3. Popolou says:

    While reading around and searching for different news channels for the LHC especially in connection with the recent and halting news, i’m coming across very similar lingo to explain the problem of the magnet quench. They all do their best to convey the problem linked to a faulty electrical connection between the magnets and how this heated up and melted, in turn causing a tonne of helium to leak.

    But, and this is the stumbling block for me, why would an electrical connection melt if it ‘only’ increased by 100 degrees? If the section in question was running at 2k, the interconnect would still have only been at a temperature of ~170 degrees C at the time of failure. If these materials were constructed and assembles in room temperature how is it that the item failed at such a low temperature?

    From what i can tell (http://hcc.web.cern.ch/hcc/cryo_main/cryo_main.php?region=Sector34#), the highest temperature reached by an individual magnet along Sector 3-4 shows a reading of 108k. Can someone explain how the electrical interconnect can melt at such low temperatures? Is it because the metal absorbed such a large heat differential in a short period?



  4. [...] Hawking v Higgs As you may have heard (see here and here), the LHC has had a technical setback. It will take several months to fix, so it’s a good [...]

  5. when are we going to know the truth about this thing called CERN, do they know what they are doing, do they know the problems that can transpire, what if the planet earth is thrown off of its axis, what about the gravity, there is a trillion things that can go wrong, why are we not aloud to have a say in what go’s on.

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