The problem-plagued Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has suffered a series of setbacks and mechanical breakdowns, is reportedly back in operational mode after suffering a power failure due to a blown 18 kilovolt power connection. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) operates the $10 billion particle accelerator located in Geneva.
CERN spokeswoman Katie Yurkewicz told msnbc’s Cosmic Log the power cut occurred due to a faulty power cable, which tripped the 18-kilovolt circuit breaker and shut down the organization’s computer system. Yurkewicz said the incident was not out of the ordinary; indeed, a similar power cut occurred in November, when a bird carrying a piece of bread dropped the snack into an open-air substation. While this most recent incident reportedly did not involve interference from winged creatures, Yurkewicz noted, “This is the sort of thing that happens at accelerators”
The science blog also posted an explanation from CERN spokeswoman Renilde Vanden Broeck, who explained a cable fault caused the failure in the 18 kV power supply network, which affected mainly the Meyrin site where the LHC is located, and in particular the injectors and the Computing Centre but not the LHC cryogenics. “The network was back up by 10:30 a.m. As there were knock-on effects it took time to get everything back up (the LHC etc. is a complex electrical system),” she wrote. “Power cuts are not that rare around here. There was again beam in the machine at 10:30 p.m. last night.”
While there have been setbacks, CERN scientists have had much to celebrate: Last week, the LHC set a world record by becoming the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 teraelectronvolts (TeV). The speed exceeded the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, which had been held by the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s Tevatron collider since 2001.
A week earlier, the organization announced that the LHC began circulating two beams simultaneously for the first time, following the reactivation of the device on Nov. 20. Circulating two beams simultaneously allows the operators to test the synchronization of the beams and give the experiments their first chance to look for proton-proton collisions. CERN spent more than a year repairing the device, built with the intention of testing various predictions of high-energy physics, after, due to a fault between two superconducting bending magnets, the project was brought to halt soon after the first tests began in September 2008.