CERN director-general Robert Aymar, in his end-of-year status account to Council, reported on a year of progress at the LHC, which is due to start operation in the summer.
The machine components are now fully installed in the 27 km tunnel and commissioning is well underway. The successful commissioning of the second of the two transfer lines that will carry beams into the collider took place at the end of October, at the first attempt. Two of the LHC’s eight sectors are currently cooling down to their operating temperature of 1.9 K and a further three sectors are being prepared for cool-down. More good news included a successful pressure test of sector 1-2 on 8 December. This was the final sector to undergo this test, which assesses the ability of the mechanical design to withstand a pressure 25% above its design value.
Aymar told Council that CERN is on course for the LHC to start up in early summer 2008. However, it will not be possible to fix a definite date before the whole machine is cold and magnet electrical tests are positive. This should be in the spring, but any difficulties encountered during the commissioning that require a sector of the machine to be warmed up will lead to a delay of two to three months.
Installation of the LHC detectors is approaching its conclusion, and the collaborations are turning more attention towards physics analysis, including testing of the full data chains from the detectors through the Grid to data storage. All of the collaborations expect to have their initial detectors ready for April. Some are already routinely taking data with cosmic rays, and baseline Grid services are in daily operation.
Council also approved a budget for CERN in 2008 that will allow consolidation of CERN’s aging infrastructure to begin, together with provision for preparations for an intensity upgrade for the LHC. This paves the way for the renovation of the LHC’s injector complex, including replacement of the venerable PS, which was first switched on in 1959. This process will allow the LHC’s beam intensity to be increased by around 2016, thereby improving the sensitivity of the experiments to rare phenomena. The 2008 budget includes additional funds for this work, with special contributions being made by CERN’s host states, France and Switzerland.