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Repairs for broken LHC transformer may have been costly

Despite protests and even death threats to the team scientists, CERN's Large Hadron Collector (LHC) went online last week without the world ending.  The world's largest particle accelerator zipped through warm-up tests firing proton beams.  Scientists were eager to start experiments as soon as the end of the month and start probing the universe's mysteries like Higgs bosons.

A setback put those plans on temporary hold.  The 30-ton transformer that provides cooling to the collider broke last Thursday, just a day after it was turned on.  The scientists with the European Organization for Nuclear Research reported the bad news. 

Fortunately, researchers were able to race to replace the faulty transformer.  They replaced it successfully this week and began to re-chill the 17 mile ring, which sits near the border between Swiss-French.  The ring is currently at close to absolute zero (0 Kelvin, -273.14 °C, -459.67 °F).  The closer to absolute zero the temperature is, the more productive the experiments will be.

The malfunctioned raised temperatures from 2 K, the typical operating temperature, to 4.5 K.  While 4.5 K is still extraordinarily cold for the Earth, it is too warm for the collider to operate. 

On September 10, the LHC had fired its first proton beam approaching the speed of light.  The first test fired clockwise, and then a second test was performed with a counterclockwise firing.  According to the team, "Several hundred orbits (were made)."

The next step was to tighten the proton beam with the ring's electromagnet equipment.  This readies the beam for collisions.  Just as this test began the transformer failed, so the test was canceled.  Now that its back running, researchers are ready to go back to where they left off, testing the tightening once more.

They hope to be running experiments within weeks.  The collisions of protons in the LHC will produce exotic particles, which the LHC's advance detectors such as the ATLAS detector will pick up, helping scientists to glean a better understanding about matter.  





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