2008 LHC Open Days: Super(-conducting) events and activities

Superconductivity will be one of the central themes of the programme of events and discovery activities of the forthcoming LHC Open Days on 5 and 6 April. Visitors will be invited to take part in a range of activities, experiments and exchanges all about this amazing aspect of the LHC project.

Why superconductivity? Simply because it’s the principle on which the very operation of the LHC is based. At the heart of the LHC magnets lie 7000 kilometres of superconducting cables, each strand containing between 6000 and 9000 filaments of the superconducting alloy niobium-titanium in a copper coating. These cables, cooled to a temperature close to absolute zero, are able to conduct electricity without resistance. 12000 amp currents - an intensity some 30000 times greater than that of a 100 watt light bulb - pass through the cables of the LHC magnets.




BLDG 163 (Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 April):

See weird and wonderful experiments with your own eyes

In the workshop where the 220,000 km of superconducting cables needed to operate the LHC were tested, MaNEP (a research network focussing on new electronic materials and based at the University of Geneva) will fill visitors with wonder. A host of different experiments on superconductivity will be carried out.

(Copyright: MaNEP)

The levitating scooter, which will take volunteers for a ride suspended in the air, will undoubtedly be the most spectacular of them all. A weird and wonderful miniature levitating vehicle floating above magnetic rails will also be on display. And kitted out with gloves, tongs and goggles (see photo), children will have fun making small superconducting disks levitate or observing the phenomenon. Finally, visitors will be able to test the efficiency of superconducting cables and zero resistance by pedalling on a superconducting bicycle connected up to special lamps.


A light-hearted look at superconductivity

The public will also have the chance to see an exhibition by the cartoonist Mix&Remix, tracing the adventure of superconductivity in a light-hearted manner (the highlights of research in the field, prospects for the future, etc.).


"A short story of an enduring enigma"

A film made entirely by MaNEP will be shown. "Superconductivity: a short story of an enduring enigma" will look behind the scenes in the laboratories and review the main chapters of the story of superconductivity.


BLDG 165 (Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 April):

Welcome to the Cryolab, the kingdom of superfluidity!

Superfluid helium is one of the strangest substances you can imagine. At temperatures close to absolute zero (-271 C°) helium becomes superfluid and escapes from the vessels holding it! CERN uses 130 tonnes of it to cool the LHC magnets and keep the accelerator in the superconducting state. In the Cryolab you will be able to see for yourself how helium passes from the liquid to the superfluid state, as well as observing its quantum behaviour demonstrated by the fountain effect, its infinite conductivity and zero viscosity.



A superconducting key ring!

As a souvenir of these two special Open Days, 2000 emblematic superconducting key rings will be on sale in the various sales points on 5 and 6 April. 1000 km of superconducting cable was used to make them! These attractive key rings will feature the superconducting cable with its thousands of filaments inside their copper coating.



Georg Bednorz (source http://nobelprize.org/)



Anthony Leggett (source http://nobelprize.org/)

Encounters with Nobel prize-winners


A crowning touch to the programme will be the presence of two of the Nobel prize-winners who discovered two phenomena essential to the LHC’s operation:

Georg Bednorz, who shared the 1987 Nobel physics prize with Alex Müller for an important breakthrough in the discovery of superconductivity in ceramic materials, and Anthony Leggett, who was awarded the 2003 Nobel physics prize with Vitaly Ginzburg and Alexei Abrikosov for their pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids. They will attend the superconductivity workshops on 5 April and will give a lecture for the general public on 6 April.

Call for volunteers


CERN is calling on all CERN personnel to help in the organisation of the two special Open Days.


CERN is calling for volunteers from all members of the Laboratory’s personnel to help with the organisation of these two exceptional Open Days, for the visits of CERN personnel and their families on the Saturday and above all for the major public Open Day on the Sunday. All those working for CERN as well as retired members of the personnel can contribute to making this event a success. Many guides will be needed at the LHC points, for the activities at the surface and to man the reception and information points. The aim of these major Open Days is to give the local population the opportunity to discover the fruits of almost 20 years of work carried out at CERN. We are hoping for some 2000 volunteers for the two days, on the Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Volunteers from among retired members of the personnel will be welcome, particularly for the Saturday. All participants will be given training and on the day itself will be provided with suitable clothing, a meal and a souvenir.


We invite as many of you as possible to sign up as volunteers!


An application form is available at the following link:




For further information contact: