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Higgs hunt halts as CERN prepares LHC upgrades

'Long shutdown 1' will enable collider to be turned up to 11

View of the LHC tunnel sector 3 to 4

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) may have identified the Higgs Boson, but CERN knows the instrument can do better and today started the process of shutting down the massive machine, and the organisation's other particle accelerators, for a spot of maintenance.

The key work, according to Simon Baird, deputy head of CERN's Engineering department, will see “consolidation of the 10,170 high-current splices between the superconducting magnets.” 1695 interconnections between each of the cryostats of the main magnets will be opened, with teams working on about 500 at a time. Over the two years the job is expected to take, the team will make its way around the LHC's 27km cirumference.

While that's going on, CERN says a parallel project on the LHC will see “sensitive electronic equipment protection will be optimized by relocating the equipment or by adding shielding.” Over at the Super Proton Synchrotron, meanwhile, 100 kilometres of radiation-damaged cables will be replaced.

The motive for the LHC refit is the 2008 incident that crashed the facility and which CERN blamed on “a single fault in an electrical connection between two adjacent magnets, which had led to extensive collateral damage.“

While that fault was fixed and the LHC has obviously been able to do useful work since, the collider's not been run at full power since. This upgrade should make it possible to do so, helping further Higgs-hunting and other feats of physics. ®

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