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CERN fits last major piece into world's largest scientific instrument

CERN fits last major piece into world's largest scientific instrument

Engineers on Friday fitted the last major piece into what they claim is the world's largest scientific instrument _ the nuclear particle accelerator in a 27-kilometer (17-mile) circular tunnel under the Swiss-French border.
"It's exciting but at the same time there is a feeling of relief," said Robert Aymar, director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, as he watched the three-story-diameter piece of equipment descend slowly down a 100-meter (330-foot) shaft.
The startup date for the Large Hadron Collider, eagerly awaited by scientists planning to use it for studying the makeup of matter and the universe, has yet to be set, but Aymar said the project appeared to be progressing smoothly.
He said the euro1.3 billion (US$2 billion) project, under construction since 2003, now appeared on target for startup this summer after months of delays caused by failure of some of the equipment under testing.
"For such a huge, complex enterprise, difficulties are there," Aymar, a French scientist, told The Associated Press in an interview at CERN, as the organization is known from its French acronym.
Frank Taylor, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, watched closely as the wheel-shaped cluster of detectors was fitted into a massive array of detectors filling an underground room the size of a cathedral.
"When the wheels were shipped from where they were assembled at CERN, I had butterflies in my stomach," Taylor said. "In fact, I mentioned to somebody it was valium in the morning and, if successful, champagne in the afternoon. Now I've just gone to coffee."
He said hard work remains for his team, which must connect the rest of the detector to the wheel that was assembled from precision parts made in other countries as well, including Switzerland, China, Japan and Israel.
"It's an enormous project," said Taylor, who oversaw the U.S. construction of detection chambers that went into the wheel.
The chambers will join in recording what happens when protons collide at the speed of light.
When everything is assembled _ and some smaller pieces still need to be put in place _ scientists will lower the temperature section by section to near absolute zero _ colder than outer space.
That will enable them to use superconducting magnets to guide the streams of particles around the tunnel. The plan is to steer packets of particles aimed in opposite directions so that they collide.
The collider is replacing a less-powerful model that was removed from the tunnel in 2000.
The lab's 20 European member countries, as well as observer states like the United States and Japan, contribute to CERN's annual budget of about 1 billion Swiss francs (US$940 million; euro620 million).
Thousands of scientists from 80 countries are planning projects on the new collider, which became a main focus for world research into the nature of matter and the origins of the universe after the U.S. Congress in 1993 halted construction on the proposed Superconducting Super Collider in Texas.


Updated : 2021-02-27 09:39 GMT+08:00