CERN to restart particle accelerator in the summer of 2009

Geneva  - The unique giant particle accelerator along the French-Swiss border, which scientists hope will give clues as to the nature of matter itself, will be functioning again by the summer of 2009, its operators said Friday.

The machine, known as the Large Hadron Collider, was turned off in September following a malfunction which caused damage to integral parts just about a week after the first experiment. It has since been turned off.

The LHC, operated by European Organization for Nuclear Research - known by its French acronym CERN- is run on a budget of some 10 billion Swiss francs (8.17 billion dollars), making it one of the most expensive science experiments.

The costs to repair the damage is expected to reach up to 20 million francs.

Scientists have been working to create the LHC for about 20 years.

The malfunction was caused, James Gillies at CERN said, by a faulty electrical connection between two of the 1,600 magnets in the collider, which are connected by over
50,000 solder joints.

The physicists are trying to send two proton beams into direct head-on collision nearly at the speed of light. They hope this will recreate conditions just after the Big Bang, which most scientists accept as the origin of the universe.

The replacement parts, mostly magnets and the superconducting cables that connect them, will likely be placed back into the machine by March and the work completed by May.

Gillies said he hoped that in July or August hydrogen atoms would again be inserted into the LHC and sent around a 27 kilometre ring, in a tunnel 90 metres below ground.

The collision of the atoms' protons, half a human hair in width, would take place within in month and discoveries are likely to be made over the following year. (dpa)