The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has not seen the ‘on’ switched turned in nearly two years. And, it’s going to have to wait just a bit longer.
CERN says seven of the LHC’s eight sectors have successfully been commissioned to run at the upgraded operating energy of 6.5 TeV (trillion electron volts) per beam. But, there was a hiccup with the eighth sector. An intermittent short circuit occurred in one of LHC’s magnet circuits on March 21.
CERN scientists understand the issue according to CERN. It could just take a bit of time to fix it though. It is in a cold section of the LHC, and fixing it may require the area to be warmed up and then re-cooled after the repair.
“Any cryogenic machine is a time amplifier,” said CERN’s Director for Accelerators, Frédérick Bordry in a statement. “So what would have taken hours in a warm machine could end up taking us weeks.”
Right now, officials estimate a delay of anywhere between a few days to several weeks. Impact on the LHC operation as a whole is expected to be small.
“All the signs are good for a great run 2,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks delay in humankind’s quest to understand our universe is little more than the blink of an eye.”
CERN scientists will take the rest of this year to get used to all the upgrades. The meat of the physics experiments will take place between 2016 and 2018.
The Large Hadron Collider Upgrades
For nearly two years, CERN scientists have been upgrading and conducting maintenance on the LHC. The biggest upgrade came to the energy beams. In 2012, the energy was at 8 TeV (4 TeV per beam). Once the machine fires back up, it will be at 13 TeV (6.5 TeV per beam).
Higher energy means physicists can look for new particles and check theories that were once untestable.
As for maintenance, CERN scientists have replaced 18 of the LHC’s 1,232 superconducting dipole magnets. These are used steer particle beams around the 17 mile underground tube.
Control systems of the cryogenics system (what keeps the magnets at a low temperature) was upgraded. And, the cooling plant was renovated.
CERN hopes to answer some questions like, what is the origin of mass? What are dark matter and dark energy? Evidence of supersymmetry? CERN hopes the upgrades to the LHC will shed some light on these questions.