CERN has confirmed that a fault in an electrical connection between two magnets caused the incident on the 19th September, which has temporarily shut down preparation of the LHC for experiments. The fault led to mechanical damage and a release of liquid helium, which contributed to further damage to the affected sub-sector of the machine. All of the safety systems operated as expected and no one was put at risk. CERN has the spares and resources available to complete replacement and repair during the scheduled CERN-wide, maintenance shutdown over winter. Checks and modifications will ensure that similar failures do not occur elsewhere once the LHC restarts in Spring 2009. A detailed technical report is available in the links below.
What had been an exceptionally smooth early commissioning phase for the LHC, following first injection of proton beams on the 10th September, was halted by a technical failure on the 19th September. The first few days of commissioning beams in the LHC had encountered some technical problems, which had been resolved.
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Representatives of the governments of CERN�s Member and Observer States and other participating nations will attend the official inauguration of the LHC on the 21st October 2008.
Find out more about the official inauguration of the LHC
The worldwide LHC Computing Grid is an essential element of the LHC project, responsible for the analysis and management of the more than 15 million Gigabytes of data flowing from the LHC every year. The LHC Grid combines the power of more than 140 computer centres across a 33 country collaboration.
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Summer's on its way with sunny days at the beach, balmy nights barbecuing in the garden and ... proton collisions at 99.999999% the speed of light! That's right, the latest news from CERN's end of year report is that it's only a matter of months before the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can be powered up and start running experiments deep underground in Switzerland and France.
Reporting at the 145th meeting of Council, CERN's governing body, Director General Robert Aymar said that all of the teams working on the LHC are making excellent progress towards the goal of starting physics research on the collider by summer this year. The news has been welcomed by the scientific community, especially since the project has previously suffered some setbacks with a magnet quench in March 2007 pushing the previous start-up date back from November 2007.
To get the largest experiment the world has ever seen - the Large Hadron Collider - up and running three main elements of the experiment need to be in place. Firstly, the LHC collider needs to accelerate protons to just under the speed of light and direct them at each other. In order to accelerate the particles superconducting magnets are used. These magnets must be cooled to a mere 1.9 degrees above absolute-zero in order to superconduct. Once the collider is in place, the second element of the experiment is making sure all of the detectors are up and running and able to observe the creation of the tiny fundamental particles that are the building blocks of matter. Finally, the scientists need to record the enormous quantity of information picked up by each of the detectors. The Worldwide LHC Computer Grid - a vast global computing infrastructure - has been developed for this purpose.
In 2007 good progress was made on all fronts by the 9,000 strong research teams from around the world. The LHC is now fully installed along its 27km tunnel, and commissioning is well underway. Both lines carrying the proton beams have been successfully commissioned and two of the eight sectors are currently being cooled down to operating temperature, with three more sectors being prepared for cool down. The whole cooling process is expected to be completed by the spring.
Furthermore, installation of the detectors is now almost complete (see below for more information) and testing of the full data chain from detection through the Grid analysis and data storage is getting underway. All of the collaborators expect their detectors to be ready by April this year.
Talking of the progress being made, the Director General said: "We're on course for start-up in early summer 2008."
Watch this space!
find out more about the Large Hadron Collider
Scientists working on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at CERN were celebrating at the end of January after its final detector element was successfully lowered into place.
The CMS is a truly worldwide collaboration, with more than 2,500 scientists and engineers from over 180 institutes in 38 different countries working on the experiment. The CMS detector - one of six in total at the Large Hadron Collider - has been constructed as a general-purpose detector to look for the existence of the Higgs Boson and also explore physics outside of the standard model, such as supersymmetry or extra dimensions.
The construction of the CMS - a puzzling engineering feat in itself - marks the culmination of eight years of hard and dedicated work for the team behind the detector. The detector was first of its kind to be constructed above ground and then disassembled to be lowered, piece by piece, 100 metres to the CMS's underground experimental cavern, where it has been reconstructed.
The whole process of construction began way back in November 2006 when the first of 15 elements of the CMS were lowered by a massive gantry crane with only centimetres of leeway between the sides of the elements and the cavern walls. A terrifying thought for anyone who has tried to move a piano from the first floor of a cramped apartment!
There were some benefits to this approach however. By constructing the detector above ground, the CMS team were able to save considerable time as the experimental cavern below was still being excavated. A second advantage has been the ability to test all of the pieces within the detector. The team were able to test that the pieces functioned not only individually, but also that they worked together.
The final piece of the CMS is an asymmetrical end-cap that weighs in at a whopping 1,430 tonnes! The end-cap contains fragile detectors capable of measuring the energy of fundamental particles created in proton collisions when the LHC starts running later this year.
find out more about The CMS experiment
The CERN council has announced the appointment of Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer as its the new Director General. Professor Heuer will take over from CERN's current director Robert Aymar from January 1st 2009, taking control of the world's largest particle collider for a five year term. Professor Heuer will have the exciting task of looking after the early years of the operation and development of the Large Hadron Collider and the coordination of the first results from this ground-breaking experiment.
Rolf-Dieter Heuer, currently working as Research Director for particle and astroparticle physics at the German research centre DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron - the German Electron-Synchrotron), is very excited about taking on the role. Talking of his new position, the professor said: "The LHC - the largest particle accelerator in the world - will start running at CERN in 2008. It will open up a completely new era in particle physics. I am looking forward to seeing great discoveries in the exciting years ahead."
Professor Heuer obtained a PhD at the University of Heidelberg in 1977. He moved to CERN to join the OPAL experiment in 1984 and eventually became the experiment's spokesman in 1994. Four years later Professor Heuer became a professor at the University of Hamburg where he started working at DESY, helping to prepare another collider, the International Linear Collider (ILC) for use. In 2004 he became Research Director for particle and astroparticle physics at DESY. In this role he has strengthened relationships between CERN and DESY, participating in the preparation of the Large Hadron Collider and working collaboratively on its development, so he is well prepared for what awaits him underground in Switzerland!
find out more about Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer
In April, a 3.3km section of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was cooled to an extraordinarily low -271��C (1.9K). That's just a couple of degrees above the lowest temperature possible, absolute zero, and colder than outer space!
This test run made the LHC the world's largest ever superconducting installation, cooled by 15 tonnes of superfluid helium.
The big chill!
Over the coming months, each section of the whole 27km LHC ring will take its turn to be brought down to this super-cool temperature for the accelerator's magnets to operate in a superconducting state.
This will enable them to generate a magnetic field that is strong enough to bend and focus proton beams accelerated to over 99% of the speed of light.
If all goes to plan, the LHC will be fully superconducting in 2007.
find out more about CERN's big chill
A set of four metal cartridges are being installed in each of 18 quadrupole magnet assemblies to reinforce the internal supports that broke in a pressure test in March. This will make the supports strong enough to cope with the unbalanced forces they will experience during the LHC's operation.
"We took a pratfall"
On Tuesday, March 27, there was a serious failure in a high-pressure test at CERN of a Fermilab-built set of magnets in the tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider. These magnets focus the particle beams prior to collision at each of four interaction points around the accelerator.
With a loud bang and a cloud of dust, the supports holding the inner "cold mass" of one of the three superconducting magnets broke at a pressure of 20 atmospheres, in response to unbalanced forces acting on it during the test.
The test was to simulate conditions during a magnet quench, when a superconducting magnet suddenly "goes normal," releasing large amounts of energy. These unbalanced forces could also occur during magnet cool down or a refrigerator failure.
Nobody was hurt in the test failure, and the LHC project is now back on track.
After the test failure an embarrassed Pier Oddone, Director of Fermilab, said "Last Tuesday we took a pratfall on the world stage." He went on to say, "We are dumbfounded that we missed some very simple balance of forces."
Even in something as complicated and expensive as the LHC, overlooking a piece of GCSE level physics is all it takes to throw a spanner in the works!
find out more about the magnet test failure
CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the world's largest particle physics centre. It sits on the border between France and Switzerland near Geneva.
CERN is a research laboratory where scientists from around the world come to study the building blocks of matter and the forces that hold them together. Its main job is to provide the tools for this research. Their tools are accelerators, which accelerate particles to almost the speed of light, and detectors to track and record the particles making them visible.
Founded in 1954, CERN stands for Conseil European pour la Research Nucleaire and it was one of Europe's first joint ventures. It now has 20 member states and about 3,000 people are employed by CERN including: physicists, engineers, technicians, computer scientists, craftsmen and administrators. Some 6,500 visiting scientists, half of the world's particle physicists, come to CERN for their research. They represent 500 universities and over 80 different nationalities.
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Wonders of the modern world
In a recent poll on the CNN news group website, readers were asked to vote for the greatest wonder of the modern world. The top two spots both went to CERN creations, with the World Wide Web in first place and the LHC in second place!
find out about the birth of the World Wide Web
read more about the CNN poll