Print 93 comment(s) - last by Technomage.. on Aug 12 at 12:49 PM

LHC will only operate at half power to try to detect problems earlier

The Large Hadron Collider may usher in a new era of particle physics as the world's most powerful particle accelerator.  However, the LHC has also been the victim of numerous delays, ever since its launch last September failed. 

At launch an electrical fault between two of the magnets reportedly caused an arc of electricity, which in turn triggered a helium leak and explosion.  As a result, the proton tube was contaminated with soot, and the magnets were broken off from their mountings.  Months of repairs revealed more leaks in the vacuum of the insulating layer surrounding the proton tube.

Now the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN has declared that the repairs are done.  States CERN in a press release, "[Tests] will initially run at an energy of 3.5 TeV per beam when it starts up in November this year.  This news comes after all tests on the machine's high-current electrical connections were completed last week [the week of July 27], indicating that no further repairs are necessary for safe running."

Still, the restart represents caution on CERN's part -- 3.5 TeV is only half of the beam's full intended operational power.  States CERN Director General Rolf Heuer, "We've selected 3.5 TeV to start because it allows the LHC operators to gain experience [with] running the machine safely while opening up a new discovery region for the experiments."

There remain concerns about whether the device is capable of running at full power.  Describes CERN:

Following the incident of [Sept. 19, 2008] that brought the LHC to a standstill [due to a faulty magnet connection], testing has focused on the 10,000 high-current superconducting electrical connections like the one that led to the fault. These consist of two parts: the superconductor itself, and a copper stabilizer that carries the current in case the superconductor warms up and stops superconducting, a so-called quench. In their normal superconducting state, there is negligible electrical resistance across these connections, but in a small number of cases abnormally high resistances have been found in the superconductor. These have been repaired. However, there remain a number of cases where the resistance in the copper stabilizer connections is higher than it should be for running at full energy.

However, CERN also says that it has tested and repaired a large number of these faulty copper connections.  It says that the final two sectors it tested revealed no abnormalities.  Nonetheless, after all the headaches, it plans to throttle up the 17-mile long accelerator loop slowly, just in case there's still undetected problems.

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RE: Excellent.
By Adul on 8/10/2009 12:22:25 PM , Rating: 3
because it takes a long time to properly cool the tube down with liquid helium. A couple months from what I remember.

RE: Excellent.
By MrBlastman on 8/10/2009 12:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
True. The article didn't mention whether it was cooled yet or not. Still though... August, September, October.. There's some extra time in there that it won't be cooling.

RE: Excellent.
By invidious on 8/10/2009 12:45:21 PM , Rating: 5
Today is 8-10-09, 3 months from now would be 11-10-09, well into november. Where are you seeing extra time?

RE: Excellent.
By MrBlastman on 8/10/2009 1:34:20 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it takes far less time than two months to cool it.

In the above link, they mention it will take two full months to initiate repairs, which, during that time, they would warm the collider and then cool it back down again.

So, the two months is bunk. I would wager it takes 3-4 weeks to cool the thing. That is 1 1/2 months of it doing nothing.

RE: Excellent.
By ClownPuncher on 8/10/2009 3:07:24 PM , Rating: 2
Where did you get your info that they will just be doing nothing for that time? Are you thinking they started a volleyball team or something? Or was it just an opportunity to rag on some of the best scientists the world currently has to offer?

RE: Excellent.
By MrBlastman on 8/10/2009 3:20:35 PM , Rating: 2
It was not at all intended to rag on the scientists per say, but more to nail down the point that they are delaying progress by taking the Winter off. Power bills be darned at this point. Soo, lets get to atom smashing asap. :)

Starting up in November is - well, starting up in November. That means we can safely say they won't be starting it up in October, September or August, right? They might start cooling it, but they won't be smashing atoms.

RE: Excellent.
By MrBlastman on 8/10/2009 3:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, and correction to my verbage - they are going to be smashing particles, not atoms.

RE: Excellent.
By MrPoletski on 8/11/2009 5:27:42 AM , Rating: 2
They almost certainly, and rightly, want to perform additional tests on the equipment after it's cooled and before firing it up, this will take time.

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