Long delay to fix collider

THE world’s largest atom smasher — which was launched with great fanfare earlier this month — has been damaged worse than previously thought and will be out of commission for at least two months, its operators said on Saturday.

Experts have gone into the 27km circular tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border to examine the damage that halted operations about 36 hours after its September 10 start-up, said James Gillies, spokesman for CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

“It’s too early to say precisely what happened, but it seems to be a faulty electrical connection between two magnets that stopped superconducting, melted and led to a mechanical failure and let the helium out,” said Gillies.

Gillies said the sector that was damaged would have to be warmed up well above the absolute 0C used for operations so that repairs could be made — which would be a time-consuming process.

“A number of magnets raised their temperature by around 100C,” said Gillies.

“We have now to warm up the whole sector in a controlled manner before we can actually go in and repair it.”

The $10 billion (€6.9bn) particle collider, which had been in the design and construction stages for more than two decades, is the world’s largest atom smasher.

It fires beams of protons from the nuclei of atoms around the tunnel at nearly the speed of light.

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