Fabrice Coffrini/AP
Scientists examine computer readings for the Large Hadron Collider in the control
room of
the European Center for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland.

Super Collider on Track to Restart in Fall

May 05, 2009 02:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
After recently meeting a major milestone, European Organization for Nuclear Research officials say experiments at the Large Hadron Collider can resume later this year.

Repairs Keep Collider Offline for Months

A final magnet is in the process of being installed at the Large Hadron Collider complex on the border of Switzerland and France, the Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

"This is an important milestone in the repair process. It gets us close to where we were before the incident," said Steve Myers, director of accelrators and technolgy at CERN, the Telegraph reported.

Myers said the next step was "to concentrate our efforts on installing the systems that will ensure a similar incident won't happen again."

"The Large Hadron Collider will start receiving current again in July, and will circulate this year's first proton beam by the end of September," CNN said.

The network also reported that the LHC's repairs have given scientists the opportunity to work on some of the experiments involved with the collider.

Using cosmic rays "has helped experts better align and calibrate the detectors," CNN reported.

Background: The Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, was launched Sept. 10, but in November researchers announced that the $10 billion “Big Bang” machine will not be colliding protons until early summer.

At the time, CERN officials said that a major helium leak caused by an electrical fault would not be fully repaired until late May or early June. The repair estimates were $21 million.

“If we can do it sooner, all well and good. But I think we can do it realistically early summer,” CERN spokesman James Gillies said in November. “There is still a lot of work to do and we want to be sure that everything is in order before starting up. We will start up the LHC again as soon as possible.”

Shortly after launch, the LHC had a cooling transformer malfunction. The minor problem was fixed a week later, but the helium leak was discovered Sept. 19.

The LHC was designed to simulate the universe milliseconds after the Big Bang. Scientists hope that they will be able to determine what the early universe was made of, why matter overcame antimatter and where dark matter exists. They are also looking to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, which explains why particles have mass.

The LHC is an underground complex made up of several large cathedral-sized buildings housing high-powered magnets. The magnets, which will be cooled to within two degrees Kelvin of absolute zero, shoot protons at 99.99-percent of the speed of light through a 17-mile circular tunnel lined with computers that will detect and analyze each particle collision.

There are several structures built along the tunnel that perform specific calculations, the most significant of which are A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE), A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS (ATLAS) and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS). ALICE will examine the quark–gluon plasma that existed after the Big Bang, while ATLAS and CMS will try to detect dark matter, extra dimensions and the Higgs boson.

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