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Thursday, 5 February 2009

LHC update , 2009

Today:

  1. "Big Bang" collider repairs to cost up to $29 million
  2. Collider 'needs warning system'
  3. Large Hadron Collider gears up for July restart

"Big Bang" collider repairs to cost up to $29 million

GENEVA (Reuters) – Repairing the giant particle collider built to simulate the "Big Bang" could cost up to 35 million Swiss francs ($29 million), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said on Friday.

Announcing a further delay to the Large Hadron Collider's resumption, now expected in summer, CERN spokesman James Gillies said repairs will cost 15 million Swiss francs, and spare parts would cost another 10-20 million Swiss francs.

The massive collider, the largest and most complex machine ever made, has already cost 10 billion Swiss francs to build, supported by CERN's 20 European member states and other nations including the United States and Russia.

The collider was designed to recreate conditions just after the Big Bang, believed by most cosmologists to have created the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

Scientists started it up with great fanfare in September, firing beams of proton particles around its 27-km (17-mile) underground tunnel. But nine days later they were forced to shut it down when an electrical fault caused a helium leak.

Gillies said that helium leak caused "quite considerable mechanical damage to the accelerator."

Repairing it will require 53 of the 57 magnets in the collider's tunnel, buried under the Swiss-French border near Geneva, to be removed and then re-installed.

Some 28 have already come out, and all the magnets should be back in place by the end of March, Gillies said. CERN now expects the machine to be powered up again for tests by June, after which particle beams can be sent around again. source

My comment:Not precisely happy news, but it's better than nothing. And knowing how serious the damage is, I'm grateful they have the money to fix it. And hopefully the next run will be more successful.

Collider 'needs warning system'

An official investigation into the accident at the Large Hadron Collider has recommended that an early warning system be installed.

This system would detect the early stages of a helium leak, following an incident that has shut down the LHC until June 2009.

The report identified the uncontrolled release of one tonne of helium gas as the cause of damage to 53 superconducting magnets.

Better gas pressure release valves could avoid a repeat of the accident on 19 September, it says.

The investigation carried out for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), confirmed that the cause of the accident was an electrical fault in one of the connectors linking one of the 1200 superconducting magnets that accelerate sub-atomic particles around the LHC.

The fault triggered the release of helium gas within one of the magnets.

It has emerged that valves that should have released the gas pressure couldn't cope with the sudden build up of helium. That led to an uncontrolled release which knocked one of the magnets forward, pushing it on to the magnet in front, dislodging it.

Prof Evans said the incident happened at the very end of the LHC's commissioning process.

"We are extremely disappointed, especially as we had already commissioned seven of the eight sections of the LHC up to full energy," he said.

"This was the last sector to be commissioned and this was really the very last electrical circuit. I must say it felt like a real kick in the teeth."

The report also confirmed the damage would cost £14 million to repair and that experiments will not begin until next summer. source

My comment: The first or the last, the result is the same. But then, it was to be expected to see some problems, this is a huge machine. At least now, they will know where to look for problems.

Large Hadron Collider gears up for July restart

THE Large Hadron Collider will be back up and running by the third quarter of 2009 - probably.

According to an internal report sent to the physicists working on the giant particle-smasher at the CERN laboratory near Geneva in Switzerland, the LHC should be ready to collide proton beams at the end of July next year.

CERN's ruling council is expected to make this date official when it meets on 12 December. Yet behind the scenes, discussion about how best to go about the repairs is continuing, and one option would keep the collider out of action for all of 2009.

The accident that forced the LHC to shut down in September, less than 10 days after it started operation, highlighted weaknesses in the collider's design. The problem arose when an electrical fault punched a hole in the enclosure containing cryogenic liquid helium, causing it to vaporise. Because the gas could not escape fast enough, this led to an explosive burst of pressure that damaged neighbouring sections of the machine. Engineers plan to address this problem by improving the pressure relief system, which includes increasing the number of valves.

The decision now is whether to install this upgrade all round the LHC's 27-kilometre ring, or in stages. To upgrade the whole ring it would all have to be warmed up, effectively ruling out any chance of running the machine next year. Alternatively, the pressure relief system could be upgraded in the three sectors that are already warm, leaving any further improvements to the scheduled shutdown a year from now.

LHC project leader Lyn Evans told New Scientist that the quicker option is the only one on the table.

Yet last week a presentation by Jörg Wenninger, a member of the operations team, posted on a CERN website indicated that the issue is still under consideration

Engineers and physicists are trying to simulate the accident and will report their results in February. So while the decision to run next year seems to have already been taken - officially, at least - there is still room for a change of mind.

Evans remains confident that the LHC will be running again next year. Interim improvement to the pressure relief system in the cold sectors will be "totally adequate" for the low-energy beams planned for 2009, he says. source

My comment: Well, maybe they should go for the major upgrade. True, it will take longer and everyone is keen to see a result, but it's not even about safety-LHC must be operated long enough to produce break-trough discoveries. That wouldn't happen if it must be majorly repaired every year. That's why, if they know this is a serious weakness, it's better to get it done and over with it. And in the meantime, to re-check the whole structure for other not-localisable problems.

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