CERN Particle Accelerator Materials are Characterized Using Testing Machines from ZwickRoell

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) is one of the largest and most respected centers for fundamental physics research in the world. With the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a ring-shaped particle accelerator with a 27 kilometer circumference, situated 100 meters underground in the border region of Switzerland and France, near Geneva, physicists conduct research on the building blocks of the universe and their interactions.
AllroundLine floor-testing machines (left) and table-top testing machines (right) in the CERN mechanical testing laboratory

Research and development efforts for high-energy accelerators

Accelerating high-energy particle beams close to the speed of light before they are collided presents multiple technical challenges, several of them associated to the harsh conditions inside the machine. The components used in the LHC, such as the superconducting magnets which are used to guide the beams, operate at cryogenic temperatures, high ionizing radiation, high magnetic fields, and ultra-high vacuum conditions. Hence, the parts involved are required to undergo thorough mechanical testing in these extreme conditions.

The LHC is currently being upgraded to operate at higher stored beam energy through the high luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) upgrade. Operating at such energies requires improved machine protection and response assessment of several components, such as the collimators that are made of novel materials as molybdenum-graphite and copper diamond composites. These materials, whose properties were unknown until undergoing thermomechanical testing at CERN, revealed to withstand extremely violent sudden energy depositions that are comparable with the kinetic energy of a train moving at a speed of 150 km/h, which results in excursion of temperature over 1000°C and destructive shock-waves.

View of the specimen through the furnace port after completion of the tensile test

Validation of finite element analyses and implementation of new materials

CERN features a mechanical measurement laboratory (EN-MME), where among others, ZwickRoell testing machines are used to validate Finite Element Analyses (FEA) through mechanical measurements, and to conduct safety inspections. With the ZwickRoell AllroundLine Z100 TEW universal testing machine, mechanical tests of materials under quasi-static conditions are carried out daily.

In commissioning campaigns for ceramics, composites, and metal alloys, the EN-MME lab per-forms tensile, compression and flexure tests in ambient and high-temperature conditions up to 1,200°C. A laserXtens 2-120 HP/TZ, which is ideal for high temperatures, is used for strain, compression and flexure tests.

laserXtens 2-120 HP/TZ mounted on AllroundLine floor-standing testing machine

Versatile, reliable and open for the integration of additional devices

Mechanical engineers coming from different CERN member states take advantage of the versatility and reliability of the ZwickRoell testing systems, which are open for the integration of additional devices. The possibility to complete changing test tasks, while at the same time meeting test standards including ISO 6892, ASTM E111, ASTM C1211, and ASTM C695, in addition to the excellent mechanical quality and interchangeability of external sensors, accessories and programs, were deciding factors in selecting the testing machine.

Visit and learn more about CERN’s EN-MME on this virtual 360° tour: