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LHC downtime planned - 11th March 2010

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The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is to close for a year at the end of 2011 to allow for further repairs.
In September 2008 an accident caused 1 tonne of liquid helium to leak into the surrounding tunnel. The resulting repairs took 14 months at a cost of 40 million Swiss franc (£24 million). Now operational, the LHC will reach energies of a world record 7 trillion electron volts. While energies this high have not yet been achieved with a particle collider, it is still only half the LHC's potential.

For the next 20 months the LHC will operate at half its maximum power and allow new science to be explored by examining particle collisions at energies never seen before. Detection equipment will also be tested in this period. While offline, joints between the magnets in the 27 km circular tunnel will be strengthened, this will allow even higher energies to be reached. Despite the difficulties encountered so far, many examples of cutting edge technology are working well and most of the issues are with comparatively simple components. 

At full energy, the LHC will launch beams of protons into each other at close to the speed of light. The collisions cause the protons to disperse into smaller subatomic particles, some never seen before that lend new insights in the field of particle physics. Reaching the unprecedented energies of 14 trillion electron volts will give scientists a better understanding of the hot dense conditions of the early universe, only moments after the big bang.
 

C. Gareth Few



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