Birmingham firm plays key role in ‘god particle’ discovery

THE breakthrough discovery of a new particle by scientists working at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, owes much to the work of  Birmingham manufacturer Brandauer.

The scientists operating the Large Hadron Collider claim the discovery of the new particle is consistent with a theory put forward by Professor Peter Higgs over how matter attains its mass.

CERN is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is finding out what the universe is made of and how it works. At its heart is the Large Hadron Collider, buried deep beneath the mountains on the French/Swiss border.

The collider is a 27km long particle accelerator in which trillions of protons race around at 11,245 times a second, travelling at 99.9999991% the speed of light.

A key feature of the machine are the pumping slot shields, which form part of the beam screens inside the LHC particle accelerator. The components, produced by Brandauer, act as electron shields, protecting the LHC’s 9,300 superconducting dipole magnets from electron cloud effects inside the ultra-high vacuum beam tubes.

Without the pumping slot shields, it would not be possible to maintain these magnets at their operating temperature of -271 Celsius.

The 2,800 pressure relief springs are essential to protect the LHC cryostats from over pressure.

They have two main functions; to ensure that the flanges on the vacuum vessels remain tightly in place during LHC operations and that the one metre diameter cryostat vessels cannot exceed their internal design pressure, in case of an accidental release of helium from the superconducting magnets.

Brandauer and CERN engineers worked together to design and test the springs before the four different sizes were manufactured.

The majority of springs are already installed and the remainder will be put in place during the machine’s shutdown in 2013.

Paul Cruikshank, of CERN, said: “Brandauer is one of very few high-precision presswork specialists in Europe with the necessary skills and technical capability to produce components that meet CERN’s extremely demanding specifications.

“The company’s contribution to the Large Hadron Collider demonstrates that small and medium-sized specialists such as Brandauer continue to offer world-class design and engineering services at the highest level and CERN congratulates Brandauer as it celebrates its 150th anniversary as a family business in 2012.”

Rowan Crozier, Sales and Marketing Director at Brandauer – winner of’s Exporter award at this year’s Midlands Business Masters, said: “The Large Hadron Collider has given us the perfect opportunity to demonstrate world leading design and precision manufacturing on what will surely go down in history as one of the most high-profile scientific projects ever.

“Using 150 years of experience, we worked with their engineers to produce bespoke pumping slot shield strips that protect the vital magnets used in the world’s largest machine.

“This was a very complex task for a niche customer and involved significant technical excellence, an understanding of materials and their properties and an ability to deliver complex parts that operate in extreme conditions.

“I suppose you could say Birmingham has played its own role in helping find what many people are calling the ‘god particle’.”