'Big Bang' experiment to re-start

Large Hardon Collider

Large Hardon Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment could be re-started on Saturday morning at the earliest, officials have said.

Engineers are preparing to send a beam of sub-atomic particles all the way round the 27km-long circular tunnel which houses the LHC.

The £6bn machine on the French-Swiss border is designed to shed light on fundamental questions about the cosmos.

The LHC has been shut down for repairs since an accident in September 2008.

Operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), the LHC will create similar conditions to those which were present moments after the Big Bang.

There are some 1,200 "superconducting" magnets arranged end-to-end in the underground tunnel.

These magnets bend proton beams 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. Physicists hope to see new sub-atomic particles in the debris of these collisions.

"There won't be any circulating beam before Saturday morning," James Gillies, director of communications at Cern, told BBC News.

"They are scheduled to start putting particles in the LHC (on Friday) evening. We have done that already several times this year."

The vast physics lab has now been handed over from the hardware commissioning team to the operations team, which takes place every time a particle beam is injected into the LHC "ring".

The LHC has been shut off since 19 September 2008, when a magnet problem called a "quench" caused a tonne of liquid helium to leak into the tunnel.

Liquid helium is used to cool the LHC to an operating temperature of 1.9 kelvin (-271C; -456F). After the accident, the particle accelerator had to be warmed up so that repairs could take place.

Some 40m Swiss Francs (£24m) were spent on repairs following the accident.

via BBC News - 'Big Bang' experiment to re-start.

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