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KYOCERA's Vacuum Chambers Play Key Role in CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

Ceramic components help guide protons to collision in world’s largest machine

January 20, 2010
Kyocera Corporation (President: Tetsuo Kuba) today announced that its custom-designed ceramic vacuum chambers are being used in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operated by the European Organisation for Nuclear Physics (CERN) near Geneva. In the largest scientific experiment ever undertaken, protons fed into the LHC through Kyocera’s ceramic vacuum chambers quickly reach speeds of up to 299,792 km per second — just below the speed of light — in the world's largest particle accelerator.

“As a specialist in fine ceramics, Kyocera custom-developed these vacuum chambers in close collaboration with CERN for the LHC’s unique requirements,” said Mitsuru Imanaka, president of Kyocera’s European operations.

Image: Kyocera ceramic vacuum chamber in the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) (Photo: Copyright 2009 CERN)
Kyocera ceramic vacuum chamber in the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
(Photo: Copyright 2009 CERN)

The vacuum chambers work in a way similar to railway switching points, guiding protons through the largest machine in the world. When necessary, protons can also be removed from the LHC by rapidly alternating magnetic fields — for example, when the LHC is to be shut down. The chambers are made of fine ceramic because metal would produce a time lag in the magnetic fields that drive the protons. Kyocera’s chambers maintain the vacuum state present in the whole LHC system in order to keep the racing particles from hitting air molecules, which would otherwise reduce the protons’ speed or alter their precisely controlled direction.

Kyocera was the only company in a position to meet CERN’s exacting specifications for the vacuum chambers. “The technical demands of making a fine ceramic component increase in direct proportion to its size and shape,” Imanaka explained. “These vacuum chambers exceed one meter in length, requiring us to maintain a uniform, homogenous structure over a large area. Kyocera’s material and processing expertise have allowed us to produce fine ceramic components to overcome technical challenges at CERN and in many other industrial and research applications.”

The LHC application showcases the unique properties of Kyocera’s precisely refined ceramic materials. Ceramic serves as an electrical insulator, allowing particles to be freely manipulated in the LHC’s highly electromagnetic environment. In addition, ceramic is more resistant to extreme temperatures, friction and corrosion than other materials — critical attributes for such a world-leading scientific project.

While the LHC is the world’s largest particle accelerator, Kyocera’s precision ceramic vacuum chambers are also utilized in smaller accelerators at national laboratories and universities in the U.S.