Repaired 'Big Bang' machine fixed and ready for actionby Stevie Smith - Nov 24 2009, 10:40
On the countdown to some Big Bangs? Image: CERN.
After a shock helium leak inflicted serious operational damage and more than 12 months of delays upon the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) are now finally ready to begin slamming particles together inside the gigantic ringed machine.
According to a CERN spokesperson, the world's largest particle accelerator will be powered up and ready for action this coming weekend following a long year of work to repair 53 giant superconducting magnets damaged when electrical overheating ruptured the cooling system and six tonnes of liquid helium wreaked havoc with the experimental device.
The massive $10 billion USD machine, which boasts a 27 km circumference and is housed deep underground on the Swiss/Franco border, has been designed to provide scientists with a glimpse into the birth of the universe by colliding protons together at velocities approaching the speed of light.
While CERN expects to officially flick the switch on the LHC by Friday, the actual process of colliding particles isn't likely to start until December 01 – at which point low energy collisions will be conducted in order for scientists to gather valuable calibration data before shifting the ring into higher gear.
The repaired and revised LHC has been fitted with a special 'quench' safeguard that will help prevent another bout of overheating by instantly channeling away electricity in the event of an emergency. The collider has also been fitted with more sensitive electrical detectors and new helium vents.