The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is about to be switched on again after a period of hibernation at CERN.
The particle accelerator has been switched off since December 2016 while it undergoes routine maintenance, as part of the Extended Year End Technical Stop (EYETS). While it is turned off regularly, this annual shutdown has been particularly long, with the LHC not due to be turned on until May this year.
According to CERN, the reason for this was to allow for more work to be carried out than in previous years. This included upgrading and servicing a number of instruments.
“A large part of the shutdown had been identifying and labelling individual cables and removing unnecessary ones in preparation for the many new cables that will be needed for future upgrades,” they said in an update.
At the start of the maintenance process, the LHC was drained of its liquid helium to ensure that none of this precious element was wasted. The cryogenics system was then worked on, and one of its 1,232 magnets (used to direct the proton beam) was replaced.
Technicians also replaced a “beam dump” called the Super Proton Synchotron (SPS), a radiation-shielded block underground where degraded beams can be sent to be safely absorbed.
“Over the past few weeks the helium has been re-injected into the system and is being slowly cooled so that the machine can be handed back to the operations teams,” said CERN. “From now, the injectors in the accelerator chain are being reawakened.”
Now, with the LHC set to restart, we can look forward to plenty of exciting new physics. Scientists are investigating science beyond the Standard Model, and also are forever on the hunt for new particles.