Cleaning the large Hadron Collider is a mammoth task

23rd of December 2014
Cleaning the large Hadron Collider is a mammoth task

In what could be described as the ultimate specialist cleaning task, around 100 particle physicists recently donned hard hats and backpack vacuums and set to work on cleaning the Large Hadron Collider.

The eight-storey magnetic chamber - which is the size of the Notre Dame Cathedral - needs to be completely cleared of all extraneous bolts, dust, cable ties and other matter before its powerful toroid magnet can be tested.

Students, academics and other scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva spent many long hours vacuuming up rubbish in the vast facility. The Large Hadron Collider's magnetic chamber is where the Higgs Boson was sought. It has been designed to provide a wide area for unstable elementary particles called muons to roam, and this allows scientists to model their behaviour.

Cleaning a particle detector the size of an office building is more rewarding than cleaning one's own apartment according to University of Michigan physicist Steve Goldfarb who took two four-hour shifts vacuuming the collider.

"Crawling around inside the detector, all I could think is that every single piece of this massive detector had to be built, shipped, tested and installed by someone," Goldfarb says. "It made me marvel at just how complex this project really is-not just because of the science and engineering, but the huge collaboration between people and nations that had to happen just to bring all these individual parts together."

Operations at the LHC have been halted since June and the cleaning task needed to be completed before the planned 2015 restart. A wave of experiments are due to begin at the facility early in the New Year.

The Large Hadron Collider - the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator - was first started up in September 2008.



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