ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Large Hadron Collider Now Running with the Help of Standards

New York, Sep 10, 2008

Following 14 years of collaborative research, scientists activated the world’s largest particle accelerator today. Named the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the successful ignition of the machine has paved the road for countless new discoveries in the field of physics.

Located at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) outside of Geneva, the LHC consists of two circular vacuum pipes that guide protons as 9,000 superconducting magnets propel them around the 17-mile facility. The first beam of protons traveled through the pipe successfully this morning; ultimately scientists aim to have two proton beams travel around the course in opposite directions until they collide at nearly the speed of light. Physicists will use this collision to simulate the Big Bang, potentially revealing information that, until now, physicists have only theorized. Possible discoveries could include new, unknown particles, the origins of mass, and even additional dimensions of space.

The LHC plays host to several experiments, each collecting data regarding different aspects of the proton collision. One of the larger two experiments is the ATLAS detector. Developed and maintained in part by the Brookhaven National Laboratory, ATLAS is designed to detect the particles created by the proton beam collisions, particularly the Higgs boson, the particle thought to give objects their mass.

Several technologies used to build ATLAS are supported by standards that fostered their development. The liquid argon calorimeter is a device within ATLAS that measures subatomic particle energy, making it possible for scientists to locate and observe electrons and photons as they emerge from the proton-proton collisions.

A standard developed by the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) – a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – provides researchers with a general guide to the safe handling of cryogenic liquids like liquid argon, which must be kept below -185 degrees Celsius. CGA P-12, Safe Handling of Cryogenic Liquids, also covers the properties, first aid procedures, fire prevention and fire fighting procedures, and appropriate storage systems for these super-cold liquids.

But certain subatomic particles called muons can pass through the sensitive absorbers of the liquid argon calorimeter without being detected. A device called a muon spectrometer surrounds the calorimeter and measures the paths of these particles, which are similar to electrons but 200 times heavier.

Data captured by the muon spectrometer travels through a series of fiber-optic cables which “fan out” from a single 12-core cable to twelve individual single-core cables.

A standard from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) ensures the integrity of data making the transition from multi-fiber units to individual fibers. IEC 61314-1 ed. 2.0 b:2005, Fibre optic fan-outs - Part 1: Generic specification, is part of a suite of documents developed by IEC subcommittee (SC) 86B, Fibre optic interconnecting devices and passive components. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, serves as the U.S. National Committee-approved U.S. Technical Advisory Group Administrator to SC 86B, carrying U.S. positions forward to the Committee.

Physicists across the globe are keeping an eye on the exciting discoveries that will come as scientists begin to conduct experiments with the LHC. With the help of standards, the world of physics will soon be light-years ahead of where it is now.