The world's most expensive scientific experiment designed to discover the “God particle” and recreate the conditions that existed at the dawn of creation will be switched off for a year to correct a design problem that could break it apart if it ran on full power.
Scientists in charge of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva announced yesterday that the machine will only be able to run on half energy before it is temporarily shut down in two years' time. Its full operating capacity designed to probe the frontiers of science will not be achieved until at least 2013.
However, the European Centre for Nuclear Research (Cern), which operates the £2.6bn ‘atom smasher’ on the Franco-Swiss border, said that the additional costs of correcting the problem in the machine's copper sheaths or “stabilisers” would come out of its existing budget and it would not be asking for any additional funding from contributing countries, including Britain.
On September 19, 2008, the LHC had to be shut down just days after it was switched on for the first time because of an electrical fault that led to helium gas being accidentally released into the machine's underground tunnel. The fault took £25m to fix but Cern's engineers found that further work on the copper stabilisers designed to soak up spare electrical current from the supercooled magnets was needed before the machine could go to full energy.