Large Hadron Collider Shut Down Until Spring 2009

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"This was actually the final electrical test of the final electrical circuit for qualification for running at high energy," Gillies said.

"This would have been the last hurdle."

"Teething Troubles"

The delay is due to the fact that the collider's operating temperature inside the track is -456.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-271.3 degrees Celsius).

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."

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