More Faults Found in LHC, But No Further Delay to Start-up

Article written: 2 Feb , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

[/caption]In September 2008, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) suffered a catastrophic quench, triggered by a faulty connection in the electronics connecting two of the supercooled magnets between Sections 3 and 4 of the 27 km-circumference particle accelerator. The “S34-incident” caused tonnes of helium coolant to explosively leak into the LHC tunnel, ripping the heavy electromagnets from their concrete mounts.

Naturally, this was a huge blow for CERN, delaying the first particle collisions by several months. However, the repair work is progressing well, and hopes are high for commencement of LHC science as early as this summer. Now engineers are working hard to avoid a recurrence of the S34 Incident, tracking down similar electrical faults between the accelerator magnets. It seems like they have found many more faults than expected

According to a recently published progress report, the LHC repairs are progressing as planned, but more electrical faults have been discovered in other sections of the accelerator. An electrical short has been blamed for the quench four months ago, only weeks after the first circulation of protons around the LHC in the beginning of September 2008. It is now of paramount importance to isolate any further potential shorts in the complex experiment. It would appear engineers are doing a good job in tracking them down.

Ribbons of superconducting niobium-titanium wire is used by the LHC to carry thousands of amps of current to the magnets. Connecting the ribbon from electromagnet-to-electromagnet are splices that are soldered in place. Should one of these splices be weakened by poor soldering, an electrical short can occur, making the magnets lose superconductivity, initiating a quench, rapidly heating the sensitive equipment. Various sections are being re-examined and re-soldered. The good news is that this additional work is not compounding the delay any further.

It has been confirmed that there was a lack of solder on the splice joint. Each sector has more than 2500 splices and a single defective splice can now be identified in situ when the sector is cold. Using this method another magnet showing a similar defect has been identified in sector 6-7. This sector will be warmed and the magnet removed. The warm up of this additional sector can be performed in the shadow of the repair to sector 3-4 and will therefore not add any additional delay to the restart schedule. — CERN

Hopefully we’ll see a second circulation of protons this summer, and according to informal rumours from a contact involved in the LHC science, the first particle collisions could start as early as October 2009. I will listen out for any further official confirmation of this information

Sources: CERN,

27 Responses

  1. byron says


    Some people dream up concepts and write it down as science fiction, others dream it up and write it down as science fact. I think the two go hand in hand and feed off one another to instill creativity and test the boundaries of science.

    The universe is big however there is no reason we should put up artificial boundaries. In the past 200 years we have gone from horse and buggy to soon to be commoditized sub orbital space flight.

    No reason to think that 200 years from now we won’t be that much more advanced… (as long as we dont politicize ourselves to death)

  2. Astrofiend says

    Hmmm – one has to wonder if there was pressure to fire it up prematurely (from the point of view of the engineers) in the first place. Possibly (probably?) not, but it does make one wonder.

    Great that they seem to be being thorough with the investigation and checking now though. Can’t wait for this beast to fire up and start crashing things together.

  3. Rey says

    The HLC isn’t supposed to be turned on. There are forces in nature that won”t allow it to happen πŸ˜€ ok, flame suit on…

  4. Astrofiend says

    # Rey Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    “The HLC isn’t supposed to be turned on. There are forces in nature that won”t allow it to happen πŸ˜€ ok, flame suit on…”

    At least that statement is disprovable…

  5. robby says

    Astrofiend -although it is far beyond my knowedge or education to understand LHC,
    colliding sub-atomic particles near light speed is increasing our understanding how our universe works in the sub-atomic level.
    My most amazement is the understanding there are ‘super’ sub-atomic particles with the kinetic energy of a fastball throwed by a great pro baseball picture hiting wih the average frequency of 1 per square mile of our near top of the entire earths atmosphere every day-what is the source of these ‘super’
    subatomic particles, and what would happen should they pass through a human orbiting the Earth? I’m certain they cannot come from our Sun, and say our universe is far more violent then previously known. I just wonder how true ‘outer space’ is completely outside our Suns’ protective Heliosphere. People who watch too much science fiction thinks technology can conquer light speed or we have aliens-I should hell no!! Where are they? I can get so overpowering they no longer want to talk with me lol. I said there may be advanced life forms out there but they found out long ago it is impossible to travel between stars, and besides, the ones who watchs these SI-FI pics do not comprehend the enormous distances between stars

  6. Schultz says

    I’m not surprised. Being there really gets you that spin chilling–mind boggling feeling of how intricate this machine is. With such complexity in components, anything can go wrong, but I hope they can fire it up soon.

  7. robby says

    byron- your statements are quite correct, we have advanced very much in the last 200 years and will advanced much more in the next 200 years and believe in a few hundred more years we can have manned flights routinely amount our solar system planets.
    I many be be thinking about an ‘artificial boundaries’ outside of our Suns’ protective
    Heliosphere as people thougtht long ago that traveling far into the ocean may be a voyage to fall off the face of the Earth.
    However, cosmic rays-‘exotic’ sub-atomic
    particles worries me as virually nothing stops them but some may interact when it hits a human, the effects are still a mystery to me.
    Therefore, before humans will even think about venturing outside of the Suns protective ‘cocoon’ , we must send probes far out beyound the Suns’ Heliosphere and study what type of radiation and occurance there really is- at this time, we really don’t know because the Suns charged particles stops a great percentage of ‘ true outer space’ various types of cosmic rays and ‘exotic’ charged particles. To this date, the Manned Apollo project to the Moon was the only times humans left Earths protective field while still within the charged particles of the Sun, all these voyages were of short duration. I do not have a pssimistic view of what humans can do, I just wonder if is possible for humans to survive outside the Suns’ protective cocoon. However, I am very
    optimistic we can send unmanned probes to stars in a far shorter time-frame than the 50-75,000 years to cover the distance to the nearest Star Systems as the technology we now pocess. In a way, I believe there may be thousands, millions of probes in our Milky Way galaxy sent out long ago by advanced
    lifeforms that no longer exist.

  8. Chris Farmer, Adelaide, South Australia says

    So many things have to go right. Yet only one thing has to go wrong.

  9. Dr. S. says

    Massive miscalculation makes LHC safety assurances invalid, see:

  10. David Chandler says

    From the description given, it seems incorrect to describe what happened as a “short.” In fact, it seems to have been the opposite — an open circuit, caused by a poorly-soldered connection. A short would be an electrical connection where there’s not supposed to be one, and this was a lack of connection where there should have been one.

  11. gudenboink says

    Well put and on the money!
    If the science alone isn’t thrilling enough for Mr. Mikey, he should unsubscribe and save his comments for some one that might give a s__t!

    The science is all that matters, whether we like the results or not………….

  12. Kresimir says

    LHC biggest problem are it’s magnets, they have to be that strong because of only 27km of collider diameter. American Supercollider (which was never built back in 1990s) had planned diameter of 80 km, and therefore it’s magnets would not have to be that strong. So one thing leads to another and Murphy’s law manifested itself as usual.

  13. dbdncr says


    Assuming everything is done like NMRI, resistance lead to shorts….

    Copper at superconducting temps acts like an insulator. This allows the current contained in the niobium coil to shunt to ground at temps above the superconducting threshold preventing damage to the niobium wire. So “short circuit” is correct, in a way.

    Bad connection (solder joint) leads to resistance, which leads to heat, heat causes copper insulator to become conductive, which causes a short from the niobium to ground. You protect the very expensive coil, and get a fairly spectacular venting of helium.

    In the medical field I’ve never seen a procedure to test superconductive resistance prior to “Ramping up” the magnet. Though maybe you could tell through the power supply….

  14. Olaf says

    It is still in beta the LHC. These things happens and we learn from it.
    If it were all that simple then we probably would have created that 50 years ago. The LHC is working at the boundaries of engineering and science, so the knowledge is learned as we go.

  15. Alex Jones says

    “However, cosmic rays-‘exotic’ sub-atomic particles worries me as virually nothing stops them but some may interact when it hits a human, the effects are still a mystery to me.”

    It’s simple. Some of these particles will smash into some molecules of your cells – including your genes! – and damage them. On a long journey far out this will be desastrous eventually.

  16. robby says

    Alex Jones= thank you for your reply, I;’ve read too many reports about damages when they hit your cells-read about reports of our Astronauts going to the Moon, closing their eyes and seeing flashes before their eyes or even when eyes opened. I did not want to mention what I believe will be a disasterous journey oursite our Suns protective Heliosphere and bring out the kooks with their answers but an answer from someone like you who can verify my beliefs. Again, thank you

  17. robby says

    Alex Jones and others- I can be quite chatty, however, for feeds where I am quite sure of the answer but NOT completely certain, I will write in a way where it appears I am looking for an answer but the true reason is I’m trying to really have someone who is far more knowledgeable about these matters give their professional assessment and answer to verify my knowlefge of a feed. I certainly don’t want to bring out the kooks questioning my answers that I’m only ~90% certain of.
    Thank you for your understanding

  18. Mike says

    Expensive toys for a select group of boys.
    Nothing they discover will have a bearing on the ‘now’ ;World hunger, disease, etc
    this was built solely to satisfy their egosproving their theories fight and to have the biggest toy.

  19. Astrofiend says

    “# Mike Says:
    February 3rd, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    “Expensive toys for a select group of boys.
    Nothing they discover will have a bearing on the ‘now’ ;World hunger, disease, etc
    this was built solely to satisfy their egosproving their theories fight and to have the biggest toy.”

    >>>Hi Mike. We’ve gone over and over this on this site, and you know what – who gives a s__t? You’re in the wrong place if you want to make this kind of narrow, short-sighted comment. How about the fact that the last generation of particle accelerators is essentially directly responsible for the majority of non-chemical methods in treating cancer? How about the fact that the detection of cancer and other diseases has been made possible only because of the advances in various technologies that are direct spin-offs from particle accelerators? How about a little thing called the internet? Yep – CERN (European particle physics) is directly responsible for the technology enabling that too. Surely I don’t have to list the innumerable ways in which the internet is benefiting many around the world, even those in some of the poorest countries in the world. Nigerian internet scammers for instance. Anyway, the list of technological benefits to mankind that will help people live better lives in all countries goes on and on.

    Speaking of Nigerian scammers, this brings me to my next point. A lot more can be done for poor countries by eliminating endemic corruption than by endlessly sinking good money after bad into them no-strings-attached and watching it go on funding a flamboyant lifestyle for the current leader (read: ruthless dictator). Most African nations are among the most resource rich in the world, and yet the blight of corruption forces their people to live in crushing poverty. It’s not the fault of a large consortium of nations spending a relatively modest amount over a ten year period. Let’s put that in perspective shall we? The LHC, with all of it’s practical and scientific rewards will cost, over ten years and contributed to by many countries, about the same amount as building two or three American B2 bombers. If you include maintenance on these things, then maybe the same as one or two B2 bombers. Ergo – you are targeting the wrong waste of expenditure, sunshine.

    So Mike, I’d just like to finish by saying that you have no idea of what you’re talking about, and as such your opinion is worthless and doesn’t count for a thing.

  20. Astrofiend says

    robby Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Robby – the Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays that impact our atmosphere constantly are thought to originate from certain supernova explosions, active galactic nuclei, shock fronts in galactic collisions and more. They are mainly protons, with a few other particles thrown in for good measure. You’re right – they are far too energetic to come from the Sun.

    If such a particle collided with an astronaut, then they wouldn’t feel anything really. If the particle did interact with them, then it would cause a massive cascade of secondary radiation in their body from the interaction products of the particles. I wouldn’t think that that would be too damaging for them, but maybe I’m wrong – it all depends on how many of these energetic particles interacted with their DNA. My guess is that the interaction products would exit the body without causing too much damage, but that is based on a wild guess – I’m not sure what the interaction cross-section (likelihood of interaction) is for UHECRs and their high-energy products.

    And I agree – long-voyage space travel seems a bit of a pipe dream, for the foreseeable future anyway…

    P.S> Cheers gudenboink.

  21. robby says

    Astrofiend Says:
    I was thinking a type 2 supernova, a supermassive star that collapsed into a black hole. Your other entities are very sound, something extemely violent-something all main sequence stars is incapable of producing. You are right when you said no one would feel anything being hit by a UHECR, it just makes me wonder about astronauts,cosmonauts who stayed in earth orbits for months how many hits some may have received from UHECR-this is probably studies that will take a long time to figure out if their lifespans has been affected.
    Thank you for your reply, you’ve given me some very important information and I really appreciate it. Take care

  22. robby says

    Astrofiend- the information you stated to Mike
    gave me a much better understanding of the benefits of LHC, I had already realized studying sub-atomic particles have great benefits to our world, but you stated in a way that was much clearer than the Science periodicals I read. It is unfortunate that there are people who does not understand about Science and their benefits and really have no business in these feeds,,however, your reply to Mike is what I agree with AstroFiend!,
    Well put and on the money!!!!
    Take care

  23. dbdncr says

    Olaf – I can agree to a point that the LHC is a beta project, but method and process for connecting / bonding superconductors has been perfected for many years. At the minimum there has been a quality control issue during construction.

    Mike- It’s easy to see these endeavors as a waste of money. Seems like they always end up costing 2-3X more than what they got budgeted for and twice as long to build. Couple that with the above mentioned quality issue and people who never ponder for a moment how science improves their life, you end up with a whole lot of nay-sayers.

    One thing that is undeniable though is mankind advances for better or for worse through science. From the moment the first man used his resources for things other than food, shelter and security he started seriously pondering nature.

    There is a problem communicating bleeding edge science to the public. People see GE on the side of the linear accelerator treating their cancer (the same logo stamped on their light bulbs) Siemens on the side of the CT scanner when a doctor is doing a lung biopsy. And “average joe” has never even heard of Thermo Corp or National Instruments.

    It’s hard to get people interested in science… My wife goes somewhere else when I watch the universe or the science channel. Most of my friends stare at me with blank expressions bobbing their head up and down when I try to explain what I do for a living which usually devolves to “I’m a hospital x-ray mechanic”

    Instead of saying “Ur Dumm go way” Explain that through study of fundamental particles and high energy physics, your “insert loved family member here” can access medical technology that can detect something long before it becomes life threatening.

    During the astronomy conference in austin a couple of years ago, I decided to goto the iron horse to meet the universe today crew. While sitting at a table drinking a beer I was joined by Ethan (sorry if you’re reading this because I can’t remember your last name πŸ™‚ ) Another fellow joined the table and we talked science. Ethan poised a question that to this day I still dedicate some clock cycles to. “How would you communicate astronomy or science in this case to the lay person?”

  24. Chuck Lam says

    Faulty soldered connections! Shame on engineering! What is wrong with similar material nuts and bolts across the soldered joints? Cheap reliable insurance! Someone needs their butt kicked.

  25. robby says

    dbdncr -too many lay persons do not know the progress science made for their everyday life.20 years ago I was one of the Hardware,mainframe administrator of a state agency-we needed a new system. I visited a company that had the most advanced business mainframe at the time -a IBM3090x8 or 64MB x8 memory CPU.This was the size of a 3-25CF refrigerators- this was a vast improvement at the time as previous CPU took up a lot more space. The hard drives was in a unit the size of a 1 meter wide 2meter high box and arranged 8 together with a HD controller at the end. There was 60000 sq feet of HD with a total 70 Terra Bytes of storage with a cooling system requiring a 10000 gallon water tank outside.
    Today, I rebuild 1 desktop per year at home as I have 3 ‘puters and all are much more powerful than that monster mainframe. I have a total of 5.5TB internal HD and 3TB external.
    I know a few true ‘computer geeks who has some ‘puter riggs with 25-30TB HD.
    We take up much less space that that 1989 mainframe and not watercooled lol
    People forget their CD,DVD,etc was research from the 50s-60s to develop lazers. I can go on and on .
    I appreciate Astrofriend reply to me as i learned things and was he verified what I believed is true about the violent events of our universe .
    I love his reply to Mike as it is eloquent and
    to me informative.

  26. robby says

    addendum- I forgot to say each of those HD
    boxes had 15GB, awesome at the time of 1989, today-people throws or mulch them as they don’t have much storage. lol

  27. Tech Roach says

    Dude, is the LHC JINXED or something ? I’m quite positive that maybe this is it. LHC might find something really really breath taking. The omens prove it to an extent. Now who’s with me ??? πŸ˜‰

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