Hunting Higgs

A few months ago the LHC experienced some “technical challenges” that resulted in liquid helium getting vaporised, magnets heating up, and explosion. Total bill starting at $21 million…

An electrical connection melted during a test to make sure the equipment could handle the high currents needed to power the LHC’s huge superconducting magnets. That failure damaged the plumbing that pipes liquid helium around the system to keep the superconducting magnets at a chilly -271 °C. Large amounts of helium vaporised, causing several magnets to heat up and damaging nearby equipment with the sudden burst of pressure.

It’s not too often one gets to see exactly what that much damage looks like… CERN posted some pics of said damage for all to enjoy…


A CERN technician inspects the site of the electrical fault that caused the problems. An electrical connection melted during a test to make sure the equipment could handle the high currents needed to power the LHC’s huge superconducting magnets. That failure damaged the plumbing that pipes liquid helium around the system to keep the superconducting magnets at a chilly -271 °C. Large amounts of helium vaporised, causing several magnets to heat up and damaging nearby equipment with the sudden burst of pressure

Two of the most severely damaged connections carry electricity between separate cryostats that contain the magnets. These connections would usually be straight, but have been buckled by the helium leak. The cryostats contain a vacuum to help keep them cool. When helium rushed into that void, the burst of pressure caused some of them to move by half a meter.


Some of the magnet supports were even ripped from the ground by the burst of pressure. Release valves designed to let leaking gas escape could not let it out fast enough to prevent the damage