Electrical Glitch Delays Large Hadron Collider

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For engineers to fix the problem, the section has to be warmed up, repaired, and cooled back down, a process known as a thermal cycle.

The thermal cycle for the LHC is about two months.

"The thing that went wrong [at the LHC] is not such a big deal," said Mike Harrison, a high-energy physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratories in Upton, New York.

"The actual fix will be a day or two probably," he said. "The problem is you have to warm it up and cool it down again. That's what takes up time."

Harrison added that this kind of delay is just part of the process of getting a particle accelerator ready for business.

He was involved in the design and fabrication of Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a smaller version of the LHC that's been in operation since 2000.

"You expect to have probably a couple of thermal cycles as you go through the commissioning process" of a particle accelerator, Harrison said.

CERN's Gillies agreed that "teething troubles" are inevitable with a machine as complicated as the LHC, and that other particle accelerators have faced similar problems.

"It's one of those things you have to be ready for when you start to operate a machine like this," he said.

"It's just more time-consuming with a superconducting machine, where you have a warm-up and a cool-down phase involved with any repair."

The LHC is also scheduled to be shut down in December to reduce electrical costs in the winter, and it is currently unclear whether repairs will be finished before then.

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