Short circuit in LHC could delay restart by weeks

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CERN has been gearing up to restart its Large Hadron Collider proton smasher for weeks now and was almost ready to give a green signal, but on March 21 that changed as an intermittent short circuit to ground in one of the machine’s magnet circuits could delay the restart by anywhere between a few days to several weeks.

CERN revealed that the short circuit has affected one of LHC’s powerful electromagnets thereby delaying preparations in sector 4-5 of the machine. We would like to remind our readers that this is the same sector wherein a more eventful false start was triggered when the particle collider first commenced operations in 2008.

The European research organisation confirmed that seven of the machine’s eight sectors have successfully been commissioned to 6.5 TeV per beam, but it won’t be circulating beam in the LHC this week.

Though the short circuit issue is a well understood one, engineers will take time to resolve it since it is in a cold section of the machine and repair may therefore require warming up and re-cooling after repair.

“Any cryogenic machine is a time amplifier,” said CERN’s Director for Accelerators, Frédérick Bordry, “so what would have taken hours in a warm machine could end up taking us weeks.”

Though LHC engineers are evaluating an issue and a full report is expected soon, initial indications suggest a delay of between a few days and several weeks, CERN revealed.

CERN said that a revised schedule of restart will be revealed soon and assured that the short circuit hasn’t impacted the overall LHC operation as they are targeting full-scale physics running in 2016-2018 with year 2015 pegged as a year wherein researchers will fully understand the performance of the upgraded machine.

“All the signs are good for a great run 2,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks delay in humankind’s quest to understand our universe is little more than the blink of an eye.”