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CERN's LHC Powers Down for Two Years: Higgs Boson Hunt Halts

First Posted: Feb 14, 2013 11:03 AM EST

Excitement and the media surrounded the Higgs boson particle, also known as the "God Particle," for weeks when it was discovered in part by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). But now, the collider that makes its home with CERN, the famed international organizational that operates the world's largest particle physics laboratory, is powering down.

The Higgs boson particle was first discovered by the LHC in 2012. The particle, essentially, interacts with everything that has mass as the objects interact with the all-powerful Higgs field, a concept which, in theory, occupies the entire universe.

The LHC's shutdown began on Feb. 13 as researchers scrambled to work on maintenance that occurred across CERN's whole particle accelerator chain in preparation for higher-energy running. This work will include the consolidation of the 10,170 high-current splices between the superconducting magnets as 1,695 interconnections between each of the cryostats of the main magnets are opened. Teams will work on about 500 at a time.

So how long will this maintenance last? Researchers estimate that it should take about two years. However, the lab won't be completely silent. CERN says that a parallel project on the LHC will include sensitive electronic equipment protection that will be optimized by relocating the equipment or by adding shield. In addition, over 62 miles of radiation-damaged cables will be replaced on the Super Proton Synchrotron.

This maintenance is primarily occurring due to a 2008 incident that crashed the facility and which CERN blamed on a faulty electrical connection between two magnets. The event led to extensive collateral damage. Although the lab was able to do a quick fix, the LHC has been unable to run at full power since then. This upgrade, though, should make it possible for the collider to do its work.

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