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The Large Hadron Collider is Inspected by a Robot Named TIM

The LHC is a 27km long particle collider, and has a robot helper in its tunnels.


The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is the world largest, and most powerful particle collider. It is the largest single machine in the world. It took a decade to build, being completed in 2008, and was designed to test theoretical predictions about subatomic particles, including the properties of the now famous Higgs boson. Making sure that a such a massive machine is running smoothly, buried as deep as 175m below the surface on the border of France and Switzerland, is a daunting task. This is why CERN has TIM, a robot which scurries along down the tunnels of the LHC to provide real-time monitoring of the facility.

The name TIM is an abbreviation for Train Inspection Monorail, and while the name needlessly mentions trains twice just so it can spell out something cute, it does make TIM’s nature quite apparent. It’s attached to a monorail in the ceiling of the CERN tunnel. The rail was originally built for a previous experiment called the Large Electron-Positron Collider, or LEP. Back then, the monorail was used to transport equipment and personnel. The LEP ran from 1989 to 2000, when it was dismantled to re-purpose the tunnels for the LHC experiment.

One of the four LEP monorail trains suspended from the ceiling of the 27-km long LEP tunnel. Such trains circulate in the tunnel transporting materials and workers.
The LEP monorail in 1991

TIM speeds down the tunnels of the LHC at a brisk walking speed of 6km/h, using a set of onboard diagnostic tools to measure the structure, temperature and oxygen content in the tunnels. The robot is equipped with tools to provide mapping of radiation, as well as visual and infrared images of the tunnel’s inside. It is also capable of carrying little wagons around containing diagnostic equipment which isn’t onboard the main robot itself. Currently, CERN employs two TIMs, which can be dispatched at a moment’s notice from their parking spot in one of LHC’s service tunnels.

source: CERN

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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