Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

LHC Helium Leak will Shut Collider Down for 2 Months

Scientific American, September 20, 2008 –

More glitches for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC): The same day operators announced that a 30-ton transformer that cools part of the particle smasher had broken within hours of the LHC’s launch last week, a mishap yesterday resulted in “a large helium leak” into the collider’s tunnel.

According to a press statement, “the most likely cause of the problem was a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, which probably melted at high current leading to mechanical failure.”

No workers were at risk, according to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which runs the LHC.

The leak means that the LHC will be down for at least two months, because workers must now warm up the faulty sector of the tunnel in order to repair it. The liquid helium is used to cool the LHC’s magnets — which guide protons and accelerate them so they can be smashed together — down to within 1.9 kelvins (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit) of absolute zero.

For more on the LHC, see our in-depth report. It may be even longer now before we find out how long it takes the LHC to defrost a pizza.

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Image of one of the LHC’s superconducting magnets superimposed on an aerial view of CERN’s accelerator complex near Geneva with the path of the LHC marked in red, courtesy of CERN.

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