Particle Accelerator Refrigeration

The defining scientific breakthroughs of our time require equally immense facilities. Massive particle accelerators–laboratories on a grand scale–require a deft touch and attention to the smallest (even subatomic) details.

The Solution

The German Electron Synchrotron (DESY)–located in Hamburg and Zeuthen–is one of five accelerator centers in the world where an international team of physicists study the world of elementary particles. Part of the DESY site, the Hadron Electron Ring Accelerator (HERA) is the focus of a team of scientists utilizing some 646 superconducting electromagnets to run large-scale experiments in the field of superconductivity and cryogenics. These superconducting electromagnets keep the particle bunches focused in the center of the beampipe. Operating a temperature of 4.2 Kelvin (269° C), they are cooled by liquid helium constantly circulated through the interior of the magnets. This process requires a large and extremely powerful refrigeration system, and provides the first opportunity in Europe to gain large-scale experience of major importance for future industrial applications moving forward.

The original refrigeration system at DESY was decentralized and inefficient, so a central refrigeration system was built and concentrated on-site, including all necessary compressors, cold  and distribution boxes, purification and gas-preheating equipment, and helium dewars (tanks for liquid helium). Located outside the facility are large tanks for storing helium gas at ambient temperature, the oil coolers for the compressors, and an additional tank  holding up to 150,000 liters of liquid nitrogen.

According to original plans, the system utilized a mishmash of disparate control system components to service the refrigeration system, including an earlier version of the D/3 system. NovaTech was called in to assess the best strategy for integrating these systems, providing a solution for modernizing the control system and providing the refrigeration system operators with access to crucial facility information.

The refrigeration system was monitored from a central control room around the clock. Here operators were given all the information they need to ensure reliable operation of the refrigerator within HERA. With nearly 1,000 monitored points, and 2,000 digital signals, and 300 control loops processed continuously, and nearly 800 remote and continuously variable controlled valves in total, the scope of this one application was immense.

With all of the processing power necessary to effectively monitor the system, the previous version of the D/3 system currently installed was in need of an update. This is one of the strongest benefits of a D/3 system. The site’s investment in its existing applications software was preserved while NovaTech engineers took advantage of the new functionality offered  by the latest version of the D/3 to prepare for the requirements of future operations.  The D/3 exchanged information via OPC client and server with the machine control systems of the HERA facility. FlexBatch Batch and Recipe Management software, based on the ISA S88 standard for batch control, was implemented to improve the start-up and shutdown procedures of the refrigeration plant, including the cryogenic distributions system in the 6.3 km HERA tunnel, and to implement faster recovery algorithms from quenches in the superconducting magnets. Information provided by the D/3 could be reached via LAN for cryogenic specialists and on WAN for remote operations and diagnostics by the on-call shift. This upgrade economically extended the life of the DESY/HERA refrigeration control system.

Related Solutions

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