Over the course of the next few years, industrial gas specialist The Messer Group, through its Swiss subsidiary Messer Schweiz AG, is to provide a 160,000kg supply of helium to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) for the operation of the world’s largest particle accelerator.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest proton and ion accelerator of its kind and built to study the building blocks of matter, in order to understand the universe further and also making it the coldest place in the universe. The LHC is expected to go into operation in the summer of 2008 and in the period up to 2011, the Lenzburg-based Messer Schweiz AG will supply the helium required for cooling.

Messer is well placed to deal with such a volume of supply, having signed a long term contract for helium in 2007 with Russian company Cryor. The deal enables the German gas specialist to draw on direct access to one of the most reliable helium sources in the world. The company transports the helium from Orenburg to its European filling plants in its own vacuum-insulated tank containers, while The Messer Group’s Austrian site in
Gumpoldskirchen near Vienna is home to Europe’s largest helium tank farm, with a capacity of 113,000 litres. This ensures that Messer can take-back and store liquid helium during maintenance work on the LHC.

The LHC has been installed in a 27km underground tunnel by the Geneva-based (CERN) and the cooling capacity of the liquefied, inert helium gas will cool the close to 2500 superconducting magnets used to accelerate the particles. Inside LHC ring, which
straddles the border of France and Switzerland 100 metres underground, particles will be accelerated to very high speeds and then made to collide, in order to gain new insights in the field of particle physics. The superconducting magnets have been specially developed for the LHC with an operating temperature of -271.3 degrees Celsius. The scientists at CERN will also use the helium from Messer to cool down the large spectrometer magnets for the particle physics experiments.