Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Large Hadron Collider Is Cool

Some brief history from Wikipedia

On 27 March 2007 a cryogenic magnet support broke during a pressure test involving one of the LHC's inner triplet (focusing quadrupole) magnet assemblies, provided by Fermilab and KEK. No one was injured. Fermilab director Pier Oddone stated "In this case we are dumbfounded that we missed some very simple balance of forces".

This fault had been present in the original design, and remained during four engineering reviews over the following years. Analysis revealed that its design, made as thin as possible for better insulation, was not strong enough to withstand the forces generated during pressure testing. Details are available in a statement from Fermilab, with which CERN is in agreement. Repairing the broken magnet and reinforcing the eight identical assemblies used by LHC delayed the startup date, then planned for November 2007.

# Problems occurred on 19 September 2008 during powering tests of the main dipole circuit, when an electrical fault in the bus between magnets caused a rupture and a leak of six tonnes of liquid helium. The operation was delayed for several months. It is currently believed that a faulty electrical connection between two magnets caused an arc, which compromised the liquid-helium containment. Once the cooling layer was broken, the helium flooded the surrounding vacuum layer with sufficient force to break 10-ton magnets from their mountings. The explosion also contaminated the proton tubes with soot.

# Two vacuum leaks were identified in July 2009, and the start of operations was further postponed to mid-November, 2009.