LHC gets colder than deep space.
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Posted 17 October 2009 - 07:40 AM
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment has once again become one of the coldest places in the Universe. All eight sectors of the LHC have now been cooled to their operating temperature of 1.9 kelvin (-271C; -456F) - colder than deep space.
The large magnets that bend particle beams around the LHC are kept at this frigid temperature using liquid helium. The magnets are arranged end-to-end in a 27km-long circular tunnel straddling the Franco-Swiss border.
The cool-down is an important milestone ahead of the collider's scheduled re-start in the latter half of November.The LHC has been shut down since 19 September 2008, when a magnet problem called a "quench" caused a tonne of liquid helium to leak into the LHC tunnel.
After the accident, the particle accelerator had to be warmed up so that repairs could take place.
The most powerful physics experiment ever built, the Large Hadron Collider will recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang. It is operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), based in Geneva.
Two beams of protons will be fired down pipes running through the magnets. These beams will travel in opposite directions around the main "ring" at close to the speed of light.
At allotted points around the tunnel, the proton beams cross paths, smashing into one another with cataclysmic energy. Scientists hope to see new particles in the debris of these collisions, revealing fundamental new insights into the nature of the cosmos.
The operating temperature of the LHC is just a shade above "absolute zero" (-273.15C) - the coldest temperature possible. By comparison, the temperature in remote regions of outer space is about 2.7 kelvin (-270C; -454F).
The LHC's magnets are designed to be "superconducting", which means they channel electric current with zero resistance and very little power loss. But to become superconducting, the magnets must be cooled to very low temperatures.
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