December 2, 2009 | 12
Just two days after the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) reached a major milestone by producing 1.18 terra-electron volts (TeV), more than one trillion electron volts) of energy, the particle physics lab CERN had to cut power to one of the accelerator’s sites following a problem with a power supplier. The outage did not affect the cryogenics required for operation, and a CERN spokeswoman in Geneva, Switzerland, was optimistic that the power would be back up by 6:30 P.M. local time.
Although the report of another failure at the LHC could spur concerns of a recurrence of more serious problems that recently shut the system down for more than a year, comments posted to the lhcportal.com forum indicated that the failed 18-kilovolt circuit breaker would not delay any upcoming experiments.
The failure occurred at 1:23 A.M. Geneva time at the Meyrin site and caused a power cut across the site, shutting down the main computer center among other things and causing an abrupt cessation of operations, The Register reported Wednesday. However, the LHC’s magnets stayed chilled down to their operating temperature—1.9 degrees above absolute zero—which means CERN scientists don’t have to engage the time-consuming process of re-chilling the equipment, according to The Register.
The power loss experienced Wednesday is not in the same league as the incident that shut the LHC down in September 2008, nine days after beams began circulating. At that time a 30-ton transformer that cools part of the particle accelerator broke down due to a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, causing a helium leak into the LHC’s tunnel. Lengthy repair work ensued. Proton beams started circulating again through the collider’s 27-kilometer underground rings on November 20.
The LHC’s mission is to help scientists better understand the origins of the universe, explain why particles have mass and search for dark matter.
Image © CERN