The first superconducting magnet for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was lowered into the accelerator tunnel at 2.00 p.m. on Monday, 7th March. This is the first of the 1232 dipole magnets for the future collider, which measures 27 km in circumference and is scheduled to be commissioned in 2007. The date was thus a key one for CERN since the delivery of the 15 metre long dipole magnet weighing 35 tonnes to its final location marks the start of LHC installation.
The LHC will consist predominantly of superconducting dipole magnets, which are the most complex components of the machine. Their superconducting coil allows them to convey extremely high currents without any loss of energy. They are therefore able to produce very high magnetic fields in order to bend the trajectory of the protons that are accelerated at a speed close to the speed of light. The LHC will thus be the world’s most powerful accelerator. The collisions between the protons will reach energies of 14 teraelectronvolts (TeV), 70 times higher than those of the former LEP collider for which the 27 km tunnel was originally built. To reach the superconducting state, the magnets have to be cooled to a temperature of -271°C, close to absolute zero. If the LHC had been made of conventional magnets, it would have needed to be 120 km long to achieve the same energies and its electricity consumption would have been phenomenal.
These superconducting magnets will all be lowered 50 metres down below the earth’s surface via a specially made shaft of oval cross-section. They will then be conveyed through a transfer tunnel to the LHC tunnel, which lies at a depth varying between 50 and 150 metres. Vehicles travelling at 3 km an hour have been specially designed to deliver the magnets to their final destination. The narrowness of the tunnel complicates these handling operations, making it impossible, for example, for two loads to pass each other.
Renilde Vanden Broeck | alfa
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