Down with Physics: Giant CMS Magnet Goes Underground at CERN-Mellon College of Science - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Down with Physics: Giant CMS Magnet Goes Underground at CERN

Scientists from Carnegie Mellon and 38 countries around the world have announced that the heaviest piece of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) particle detector has successfully completed the 10-hour journey into its experimental cavern 100 meters underground in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) accelerator at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

At 1,950 metric tons, the section, which contains the detector’s solenoid magnet, weighs as much as five jumbo jets and is 16 meters tall, 17 meters wide and 13 meters long. A huge gantry crane slowly lowered the CMS detector’s preassembled central section into place.

“This is a challenging feat of engineering, as there are just 20 centimeters of leeway between the detector and the walls of the shaft,” said CERN physicist Austin Ball, technical coordinator of CMS. “The detector is suspended by four massive cables, each with 55 strands, and attached to a step-by-step hydraulic jacking system, with sophisticated monitoring and control to ensure the object does not sway or tilt.”

Carnegie Mellon physicists Tom Ferguson, Helmut Vogel and Roy Briere constructed a key element of the CMS detector — state-of-the-art electronics for the endcap muon system. Consisting of about 150,000 electronic channels, the end cap muon system will detect muons, fundamental particles similar to electrons.

“With the successful lowering of the largest piece of the CMS detector to its final position in the experimental area of the LHC, we have passed an important milestone in the construction of the CMS experiment.  We are on track to be ready for the first LHC beams at the end of this year. After more than 10 years of planning and construction, the beginning of actual physics is now in sight,” said Ferguson, professor of physics and a member of the CMS collaboration.

Physicists are preparing the CMS detector and its sister detector, ATLAS, to take data at CERN’s LHC accelerator. The LHC will accelerate and collide beams of protons at the highest energy of any accelerator in the world, and the detectors will record some of the 800 million collisions that will occur every second. By analyzing what happens in these very-high-energy proton collisions, scientists predict that they will make fundamental discoveries about the universe. Beyond revealing a new world of unknown particles, the LHC experiments could explain why those particles exist and behave as they do. They could discover the origins of mass, shed light on dark matter, uncover hidden symmetries of the universe, and possibly find extra dimensions of space.

March 2007
Amy Pavlak and the Fermilab Press Office