Monday, December 19, 2005

LHC on schedule

2005, the international year of physics, has so far been a flawless year for the LHC. 1000 out of 1232 magnets are already at CERN; 200 magnets have already been installed. See
Update, September 2008: the protons start to orbit in the LHC on September 10th, 9:00 am, see the webcast. But the collisions will only start in October 2008, before a winter break. In 2009, everything will be operating fully. Click the "lhc" category in the list below to get dozens of articles about the Large Hadron Collider.

1 comment:

  1. I never doubt that the LHC machine can be built. But I stand firm on my prediction that LHC will not be turned on. Building a machine is one thing, operating it is a totally different thing. What's good of a vehicle if you don't have gasoline to drive it?

    The looming energy crisis has completely changed the picture, which is already evidence by the CERN's own admission that they now only plan to operate LHC on a half year basis, instead of running it continuously, despite of the fact that it would be a great huzzle and time consuming to shut it down and turn it back on. They plan to shut it down for half of the years to save electricity cost.

    Running LHC is not cheap. The machine consumes 200 mega watts of electricity power, which is half of Geneva city's electricity consumption. To put the number in prospect, that's 4.8 million kwh per day. If each kilowatt hour electricity requires the burning of half a kilogram of coal to generate, that's 2.4 million kilogram of coal per day, or 2400 tons per day, requiring 240 big trucks each carrying 10 tons to just transfer the coal to the power plant.

    In each one week's time, LHC will burn coal of equal weight of the whole machine!

    As the energy crisis looms, we already see electricity price skyrocketing. We are already paying twice the electricity price this year than the same time last year. Natural gas is 7 times more expensive than just 3 years ago. So it is not unthinkable that by the end of 2007 per kilowatt hour of electricity would cost as much as half a US dollar or more. So the electricity cost of LHC alone would already be higher than CERN's annual budget already!!!

    Not to meantion as electricity supply tightens against demand, the electric grid will be un-reliable and there will be frequent blackouts, due to demand surpassing electricity supply.

    Such sudden interruption of electricity would be a complete disaster to LHC. As it operates, huge amount of energy is stored in the particle beams, traveling at near light speed and stored in the ring. As the superconductive magnets lose their power, the particle beams can no longer be kept within the circular orbit, and will crash down on the vacuum chamber, releasing huge amount of energy. The consequence is the whole machine will be instantly destroyed in an explosive fashion as the vacuum chamber explodes like a CRT TV tube.

    To built a sort of UPS power supply for the LHC to prevent such unexpected interruption will be totally infeasible, due to its high power consumption. The batteries, which contains chemical energy at a density 100 times lower than that of coal, would have to weight 10000 tons just to provide one hours worth of emergency power supply in an event of blackout. CERN can't afford to buy that much of a big battery arrays to build such a UPS.

    The only way CERN can hope to have a stable power supply, hence prevent such catastropy from happening, is to built its own power plants. But it would cost several times the cost of LHC itself to built the power plants that can suply 200 mega watts.

    Any way you put it, operating and maintaining the LHC will actually cost far more than the cost of building the machine itself. CERN may be able to afford the cost of building the machine. But they can not afford the cost of running it. My prediction is LHC will be doomed just like American SUVs. You can buy one dirt cheap these days, but you can't afford the usage cost at the end of day.