LHC to Increase Power Fivefold by 2020 With New Superconducting Technology

First Posted: Feb 04, 2013 08:44 PM EST

The largest scientific instrument ever built, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), will be upgraded to become five times more powerful until 2020. Major advancements in the required cutting-edge superconducting technology, in particular for the new high-field magnets and the high-power links, made in 2012 will make it possible to construct the first major upgrade, called High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), with planning now underway.

The upgrade will require a number of new high-field superconducting magnets and compact, ultra-precise superconducting radiofrequency cavities to manipulate the beams near to where they collide, as well as new 300-metre long high-power superconducting links. Superconductivity, which allows electric current to flow without losing energy, is the core technology for the LHC. The collider already employs some 1700 large superconducting magnets and nearly 8000 superconducting corrector magnets, all of which are cooled by more than 100 tonnes of superfluid helium.

The LHC is approaching the end of its first long run - from March 2010 to March 2013 - and work towards the proposed first major upgrade is now gathering speed. According to the current schedule, construction and testing could already take place between 2016 and 2020, ready for installation at the end of 2021.

There have been major developments in superconducting technologies in 2012 needed for the HL-LHC, which is set to include magnets based on niobium-tin superconductor, since they can reach higher magnetic fields than the existing structures based on niobium-titanium. Such magnets have recently been successfully tested in the US. Prototypes for different designs of special radiofrequency cavities to rotate bunches of particles before they collide are being tested in the UK and US as well as at CERN. To relocate equipment away from the LHC tunnel, new superconducting links developed to carry currents of up to 20,000 amperes are currently being tested at CERN.

Towards the end of 2012, two meetings provided the opportunity for people involved at these accelerator frontiers to review progress and plan future activities, not only within their institutes around the world, but also with industrial partners. In November, the 2nd Joint HiLumi LHC-LARP Annual Meeting brought together experts from the HiLumi LHC Design Study, the US LHC Accelerator Research Program, Japan and Russia. The following month, a workshop on "Superconducting technologies for next-generation accelerators" took place at CERN, representing a first step in communicating with industry to find partners for new development and construction, with a goal of maximizing the industrial return and incrementing the industrial capability of the EU.

At the bottom line, the HL-LHC project, which could be approved by CERN Council in June in the context of the updated European Strategy for Particle Physics, would yield up to ten times as many collisions per year as occurred in 2012.

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