The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is preparing for its second run in Switzerland, but it has it some snags along the way. This second round of collisions will use particle beams operating at 6.5 TeV, which is much higher energy than the collider’s first run. Although seven out of eight machine sectors are considered ready to go, one sector has encountered a problem which will need to be repaired before any further preparation for the collider’s next run. The necessary corrections could delay the LHC’s second run by a few weeks.
The LHC won’t be able to start quite yet. It turns out that a short-circuit was found in one of the machine’s electromagnets last week. The section of the machine in need of repair operates at temperatures near absolute zero, so it will take time to thaw the machine for repairs and then re-cool the components to nearly absolute zero.
It turns out thawing and re-freezing the machine is quite a time intensive endeavor. According to Frédérick Bordry, who is the Director for Accelerators at CERN, “what would have taken hours in a warm machine could end up taking us weeks.”
The most recent full run of the LHC was in the beginning of 2013. The European super-collider smashed protons against lead ions to look for the elusive and then-theoretical Higgs-Boson. Poring over data from the collisions takes time. That, combined with the upgrades to the LHC’s mechanics to produce higher-energy particle beams, led to a deferred second run. In line with these upgrades and repairs, full-scale operation of the super-collider is planned for 2016-2018.