A close look at the LHC, Part 1

The Large Hadron Collider is quite possibly the greatest feat of engineering in human history. Millions of lines of code, hundreds of thousands of parts, tight tolerances, petabytes of data, single-digit temperatures, immense detectors, unfathomable complexity, and even greater potential for scientific discovery.

But how in the name of Peter Higgs does the damned thing work?!?

Most understand (vaguely) its importance, and would love to know more, but the mainstream media doesn’t give the LHC the treatment it deserves. Thankfully, CERN is fantastically transparent about their research, and gives us many a great window whereby we may enlighten ourselves.

For those who are not fully familiar with the collider, or those who would love a refresher on High-Energy-Physics, I highly recommend watching the video at the top of this post. Else, read on.

Let’s focus on those legendary electromagnets first-astounding pieces of engineering.

CERN hosts the LHC design report, open access, providing a treasure trove of information. LHC Design Report, mirrored. Even better, the US team involved in the LHC’s design has another Design Report, that nicely complements CERN’s. US Design Report, Mirrored. The US Design Report refers to these electromagnets as ‘HGQ’s, which stands for “High Gradient Quadrupole”.

The reports are extraordinarily detailed, and showcase an extreme precision of engineering. Did you notice that EVERY component’s heat load is accounted for and compensated by the cryogenic cooling system? To within a tenth of a millikelvin?!?

table kelvin

Then the coils themselves, insulated with Kapton Tape, and precisely measured. But even that wasn’t enough for the LHC. The US Design report reads:

“To restrict coil longitudinal motion under Lorentz forces applied to the coil ends, two
stainless steel end plates welded onto skin are used.”

Yes, you read that correctly, they’ve compensated for the Lorentz force – the force of a magnetic field upon the individual point charges moving in the wire.


Even crazier, the coils must be able to carry nearly 3000 Amps per square millimeter with zero resistance.

coil buea

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?

If you actually don't believe this is beautiful, you should check yourself into the nearest psychiatric hospital. Seriously.

If you don’t believe this is beautiful, immediately check yourself into the nearest psychiatric hospital. Seriously.

Lastly, some closeup video.

I’d love to cover the entirety of both reports, but that’s for another post, another time.

Check out the following links in the meantime, I’ll be covering them in detail later. (mouseover for title)
















phew…too many links!

~ by Alexander Riccio on May 17, 2013.

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