Transformer Glitch Halts LHC Operations

Article written: 18 Sep , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

[/caption]According to reports, only a day after the first successful circulation of protons in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) last week, operations at the world’s largest particle accelerator had to be stopped due to a fault with a 30 tonne transformer used to cool part of the facility. The protons were not being accelerated at the time and there was no risk to safety at the LHC.

Rather than maintaining the equipment below the operational 2 Kelvin, the transformer glitch caused temperatures to rise to over 4 Kelvin (which is still cold, after all it is only 4 degrees above absolute zero – but it’s not cold enough). The transformer failed after the successful anticlockwise circulation of protons on the evening of September 11th and rumours about LHC problems have only just been confirmed…

This was bound to be a frustrating problem for the LHC engineers, but in many respects it was inevitable. This is a facility more complex than any technology ever built; a 27 km ring of 1000 supercooled electromagnets, operating at a temperature colder than anything in the Universe, with 2000 separate power supplies and a vast number of synchronized detectors and sensors… it’s little wonder the LHC may experience one or two technical hitches.

This is arguably the largest machine built by humankind, is incredibly complex, and involves components of varying ages and origins, so I’m not at all surprised to hear of some glitches. It’s a real challenge requiring incredible talent, brain power and coordination to get it running.” – Steve Giddings, physics professor at University of California, Santa Barbara

However, this fault was critical to LHC operations, ultimately shutting the experiment down until technicians find the problem. Judith Jackson, spokesman for the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, is not surprised the LHC should suffer the occasional setback. “We know how complex and extraordinary it is to start up one of these machines. No one’s built one of these before and in the process of starting it up there will inevitably be glitches,” she said.

Apparently, transformer malfunctions are commonplace in particle accelerators. “These things happen,” she said. “It’s a little setback and it sounds like they’ve dealt with it and are moving forward.”

According to CERN scientists, the proton beams made “several hundred orbits” clockwise and anticlockwise before the experiment had to shut down.

The Associated Press investigation into the September 11th transformer glitch indicates that the problem has been identified and CERN scientists are still on track for the first particle collisions in October.

Source: AP

23 Responses

  1. quantum_flux says

    Ha, that’s what they get for not taking gravity into account when they built their super-collider!

  2. quantum_flux says

    I predicted that would happen ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. eric says

    i agree with that quote. that is a huge machine. i wasnt surprised at all that the LHC had some glitch because any machine could hav a glitch. luckly they found that glitch

  4. Andre says

    Even Microsoft Windows have glitches why not LHC ? Keep up the good work folks.

  5. Ayti says

    Now do you see what a cascade of microscopic blackholes will do to a transformer?

    Wait’ll Hoagland gets ahold of this!

  6. muffin says

    black hole?doomsday?

  7. Raven says

    oh no! Now we are doomed. LHC will glitch us to the death! ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. Rey says

    As long as we are all asleep when the deadly black holes are created on the LHC…we won’t know what hit us ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. RL says

    Its been almost a week since the LHC was started. Until today I had only heard that everything was successful. Why did it take so long for this news to come out?

  10. serenity says

    Hmm, several 100 orbits? Are they moving them at way subliminal speed? :s
    I thought they were moving at at least 450 GeV (yes, I do know GeV isn’t speed).

  11. GregT says

    “caused temperatures to rise to over 4 Kelvin”

    Wow! must have been t-shirts on for the team!

    Still – for a machine this complex, the whole startup process has gone incredibly smoothly… and I suppose this kind of hiccup is inevitable.

    The LHC must be such a cool place to work!!!

  12. Tyler Durden says

    “As long as we are all asleep when the deadly black holes are created on the LHCรขโ‚ฌยฆwe won’t know what hit us”

    If you really think it’s possible for the entire world to be asleep while it gets destroyed, I’ve got a bridge to sell you that you’ll love.

    For that matter if you think the LHC can destroy us, I’ve got a bridge you’d really like.

  13. Ayti says

    These bridges you speak of . . . . how can I be sure the black holes won’t swallow them too?

    I think you’re trying to fool us.

    -R C Hoagland

  14. quantum_flux says


  15. quantum_flux says


  16. quantum_flux says


  17. quantum_flux says

    ::) ๐Ÿ™‚ :O :{}

  18. quantum_flux says

    Why is Raven and Rey’s smiles larger than mine?

  19. AJ says

    the headline lead me to believe that a Transformer named Glitch (presumably a Decepticon) had busted into the LHC and started shootin’ up the place. i’m glad to hear that is not the case.

  20. Sili says

    Because Fraiser likes them better.

    (They aren’t – you’re imagining things.)

  21. btw says

    Paraphrasing the first Star Wars movie, “They’ve shut down the main reactor. We’re doomed.”

  22. Ayti says

    Well, looks like there’s a (black) hole in an LHC helium coolant line so the whole sector will have to be warmed up for repairs. At minimum two months of downtime so planet Earth won’t be destroyed in the immediate future.

    I guess I’ll postpone that end-of-the-world vacation.

  23. alphonso says

    Damn & blast it!!
    I was hoping to get time off for being sucked into a black hole!!
    Can’t anyone get anything right?

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