A year full of excitement

20 JANUARY, 2024 | By Kristiane Bernhard-Novotny

The Experimental Areas (EA) group of CERN’s Beam department gathered on 19 January to hear about the plethora of works carried out during the last year. It was clear that the services provided by the members of each section are essential to run the fixed-target experiments conducted at CERN, including those that will come.

In particular, the group offers technical and engineering support for the fixed-target experiments, the LHC experiments and forward detectors, including design, operation, coordination, and support service. EA oversees and supports 10 km of beamlines in around 30 km of experimental areas, works with more than 150 user teams per year, and cares for 20 experiments and facilities, which amount in total to 2000 users. For instance, among the Cabling Team’s almost 1000 jobs in 5 years, a quick installation of cables was needed for the FORMSA demonstrator in the LHC tunnel. The gas team was busy with 740000 hours of operating the gas distribution systems and 96 gas connection requests in the experimental areas made by 270 clients ordering the gases. A particular challenge was the rare-gas crisis, but the gas team managed together with the contractors to overcome this with flying colours. The technical teams and beam physicists with industrial support ensured a smooth operation in both East and North Areas, which led to a beam-time availability of roughly 94% in the former case, and to almost 85% in the latter case, mostly dominated by machine downtimes. One highlight has been the swift removal of the T4 VXSS chamber in TCC2, which had to be done just at the end of the YETS when an unexpected problem was found. It is a good example for demonstrating flexibility, acting on issues, and working in teams across all sections in EA.

Considering two years of successful operation since the restart of the accelerator complex, Markus Brugger underlined the impact and growth of his group since its beginnings in 2016. Within only a few years, a new team formed and grew together. They directed together with critical equipment and service groups, the group many large-scale projects, such as the East Area renovation that has been completed during LS2, and now the ongoing North Area consolidation (NA-CONS), which is expected to end not before the early 2030s. As part of NA-CONS, almost 169 km of cables weighing more than 35 tonnes have been removed during a de-cabling campaign just during 2023. A fire of an old magnet in the H4 beamline towards the end of the physics run underlined the importance of NA-CONS, in a more unfortunate way. These efforts are complemented by the AD consolidation after the construction of the ELENA decelerator, enriching the diverse physics programme at the LHC injector complex for the future, with spectacular results for antimatter experiments as just shown by ALPHA-g.

LS3 options for existing and proposed experiments in CERN’s North Area were reviewed as well as the infrastructures upgrade and the critical support activities required to establish the upgrades of the LHC experiments for the High-Luminosity LHC. A review for the future ELENA and AD programmes is expected soon.

“An exciting year lies ahead of us,” says group leader Markus Brugger. “Thinking all people involved, we are very much looking forward to the things yet to come.”