French company 40-30, a specialist in maintenance systems, is working with CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) on the construction of the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator – the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva.
40-30 has been involved in the LHC project for the past five years and a contract has been signed with CERN that applies until 2009. 40-30 has worked on the LHC’s assembly and on monitoring the air tightness of all pipes and tubing making up the system, as well as all the superconducting magnet interconnections.
The objective of the LHC project is to gain understanding of the physical phenomenon that occurred just after the Big Bang, particularly through isolation of the Higgs boson, a particle that is believed to help explain the origin of the mass of all particles. In order to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang and to isolate this particle, CERN has built the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a circular tunnel with a 27km circumference.
The LHC is buried 100 metres underground on the Franco-Swiss border, between the Jura Mountains and Lake Geneva. It will produce frontal collisions between two identical particle beams guided by 1,800 superconducting magnets, all inside a vacuum comparable to that of outer space. Each beam will travel for 10 hours at a velocity close to the speed of light, covering a distance equivalent to a return trip to Neptune. To function, the ring must reach a temperature of 1.9 Kelvin (-271.3°C).
Between 2003 and 2005, 50 employees from 40-30 worked on the QRL feed (for cryogenic distribution) prior to the installation of the LHC ring. The team tested 43,000 welded joints and spotted 354 leaks. This precision work was conducted under the supervision of COFREND-certified personnel by teams of experienced controllers using all existing helium control methods (including sniffing and the global vacuum system). This required numerous working hours, since the response time for each welded seal can be up to two hours.
Since 2005, 40-30 has been involved in building the main LHC ring, controlling the 1,800 magnets’ air tightness (the magnets have an average length of 15 metres and weigh over 27 metric tonnes each), as well as the interconnections of magnets within the tunnel as work progresses. 40-30 took part in the installation and sterilisation of the LHC’s straight-line sections and has been carrying out most of the maintenance for the pumping system infrastructure.
40-30 was also in charge of the maintenance of leak-detector systems (helium detectors and spectrometers), pumping systems and drying and sterilising systems. And, in the course of their duties, members of 40-30’s team have, over five years, cycled in excess of 100,000km inside CERN’s tunnel!
The construction by CERN of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator has been mobilising close to 500 companies over more than 10 years at a cost of about €3bn. Start up is expected in July/August 2008 and the official inauguration is due to take place on 21 October 2008.
40-30 (40-30.fr), which is headquartered in Grenoble (in south-eastern France), develops its own maintenance systems. The company, which was founded in 1986, works in four main fields: vacuum technology (leak detectors, low-pressure metrology and pumps); electronics (automation, temperature control, equipment transferral and industrial radiofrequencies); cleaning and ultraclean reconditioning; and customer support (customer proximity, training, non-destructive testing and engineering).
On the strength of its experience in the semiconductor business, 40-30 is able to apply its expertise in numerous industries, including the aerospace, farming, automotive, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and photovoltaic sectors.
The company has nine operating sites in France, as well as an international branch in Singapore. 40-30 has a turnover of €20m and employs 210 staff.