Big bung theory - Hadron Collider breaks again

By Andrew Johnson

The secrets of the Big Bang will have to remain secret a little longer.

The Large Hadron Collider, which took 20 years to build and cost $10 billion, will not be able to unravel the mysteries of the universe for at least another two months, scientists announced.

The machine - a 27 kilometre circuit of super-cooled magnets deep beneath the borders of France and Switzerland - had to be shut down when temperatures rose by about 100C, causing a leak of a ton of liquid helium into the tunnel.

Scientists had hoped that the problem could be resolved quickly but yesterday announced that the project - beset by problems during its construction will be further delayed.

James Gilles, a spokesman for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern), said: "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."

LHC timeline

Early 1980s - Scientists discuss proposal for a new, giant physics research machine to be known as the Large Hadron Collider.

1983 - Groundbreaking ceremony for the Large Electron-Positron collider. LEP is the largest scientific instrument ever constructed. The tunnel built for it has a circumference of 17 miles (27 kilometers), larger than needed so it can later house the proposed Large Hadron Collider.

1989 - LEP starts up.

1991 - CERN's Council endorses proposed Large Hadron Collider.

1993 - The US Congress cancels the Superconducting Super Collider - which was to have been the world's largest collider - after five years of construction in Texas costing US$2 billion.

1997 - After agreeing to provide significant financial contributions to the LHC, the United States becomes an observer at CERN Council.

1998 - Civil engineering for the LHC gets under way, with parts manufactured around the world.

2000 - LEP is shut down after running for 11 years to make way for the LHC. First LHC parts from the United States arrive.

2001 - A computer grid project to connect tens of thousands of computers worldwide is launched to handle data from LHC.

2003-2008 - Installation of major LHC equipment in the tunnel.

Sept. 10, 2008 - Launch of LHC after an outlay of US$10 billion.

Sept. 11 - Shutdown of LHC after a transformer fails.

Sept. 18 - LHC is recooled to near absolute zero after transformer is replaced.

Sept. 19 - Apparent electrical fault in a separate superconducting area causes a large leak of liquid helium into the tunnel. The LHC is shut down for at least two months so that its temperature can be raised to permit repairs.


Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Mar 2017 11:04:38 Processing Time: 1277ms