By Andrew Liszewski
According to the BBC, Cern’s Large Hadron Collider is in the final stages of being lowered to a temperature of 1.9 Kelvin, which is about -456°F or -271°C. In order for the collider’s thousands of magnets to maintain a high magnetic field with minimal power consumption they’re required to be superconducting, so liquid helium is currently being used to cool them down.
Roberto Saban, the LHC’s head of hardware commissioning, said that in order to obtain high magnetic fields without consuming too much power, the magnets were required to be “superconducting”.
This is the property, exhibited by some materials at very low temperatures, to channel electrical current with zero resistance and very little power loss.
Helium exhibits spectacular properties at 2.2 Kelvin – becoming “superfluid”. This allows it to conduct heat very rapidly, making it an extremely efficient refrigerant.
For comparison, while the LHC is being lowered to 1.9 Kelvin, the temperature in remote regions of outer space is a balmy 2.7 Kelvin, and my cold, cold heart comes in at around 3.2 Kelvin. That’s why I originally suggested that the Cern team should use years and years of sarcasm to bring the collider’s temperature down, but they felt the emotional toll on their staff would be too high. And if you want to keep track of how the LHC’s cool-down is coming along, you can check out their website from 1997 which features an updated graphic showing the temperature of various sections.