Saturday, December 19, 2009

CERN and LHC Take A Festivus Break

Well, all's good with the LHC over at CERN.  On November 23 it created history with its first collision, on 30 Nov it created more history with a world record collision at 1.18 TeV.  It has been creating collisions at 2.38 TeV for the past week or so and has now been closed for a shortened winter maintenance window to allow some system enhancements and tests before reopening for physics in February and aiming at 7 TeV collisions in early 2010.

That sort of collision energy requires around 6000 Amps of current in the superconducting magnets surrounding the beams - a serious amount of power, and this is what the enhancements are being put in place for.  Testing of each beam at 3.5 TeV will begin in January in preparation for full commissioning and operation in February 2010 at 3.5 TeV/beam (a 7 TeV collision).

Out of interest, each of the hadron groups that are moving at very nearly light speed through the LHC's superconducting magnetic path carry about as much energy as your average passenger jet at cruise speed.  That's quite a punch they are packing!  So, should a condition arise where one or both of these beams need to be dumped - such as a "quench" situation in which the temperature of the superconducting components rises to 8K (from its normal temperature of 1.9K or -271.25 degrees Celsius) they are dumped ito one of a number of 7m long graphite blocks which are encased in steel, then water cooled and further wrapped in 750 tonnes of iron shielding and concrete.  Basically, this will result in an event that the CERN guys notice but no-one above the LHC would even be aware of.  And it would all be over rather quickly!  :)

No, not life as we know it - the proton or ion beam dumping.  That would be over rather quickly.  The LHC isn't going to create a black hole that wil consume the Earth nor open doors to extra-dimensional space that will allow creatures that look like a red, pulsating Cheese Burglar to come through and enslave us all.


The Outspoken Wookie

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