Gigantic Atom Smasher That Found The Higgs Boson Shuts Down For Two Years

Large Hadron CollideOver 10,000 high-current splices between LHC magnets will be opened and consolidated during the first Long Shutdown of the LHC. This image shows their installation in 2007.

Photo: CERN

The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, is a humongous scientific instrument that lives at CERN, the European lab for particle physics in Geneva, Switzerland. It runs 17 miles in a giant circle underground. 

Scientists use the collider, also known as a particle accelerator, to see what happens when two beams of subatomic particles, injected into the accelerator and racing in opposite directions, smash into each other. 

The LHC probably sounds familiar because it’s the same machine that was used to find evidence of the Higgs boson, or “God Particle,” in 2012.

Now CERN has announced that it’s shutting the atom smasher down on Feb. 14 for maintenance work. It will be out of commission for about two years. 

“The key driver is of course the consolidation of the 10,170 high-current splices between the superconducting magnets. The teams will start by opening up the 1695 interconnections between each of the cryostats of the main magnets. They will repair and consolidate around 500 interconnections simultaneously. The maintenance work will gradually cover the entire 27-kilometre circumference of the LHC, Simon Baird, deputy head of the Engineering department, said in a press release.

The accelerator first came on line in 2008, but shut down just nine days later because of a “single fault in an electrical connection between two adjacent magnets,” that caused major damage. The collider was back up and running a year later, in November 2009, but has not operated at full power since the incident. The planned work should finally make that possible. 

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