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Brush Wellman Inc. Electrofusion Products Group Supplies Beryllium Beam Pipes for European Particle Collider


FREMONT, Calif., Dec 03, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- As the world's largest particle accelerator prepares to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, which many scientists theorize was the massive explosion that formed the universe, teams of physicists around the world will be relying on beryllium beam pipes from Brush Wellman Inc.'s Electrofusion Products Inc. group in Fremont, California, to ensure high energy collisions of subatomic particles that they hope will change the very nature of their understanding of physics.

The $10 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located 100 meters underground near Geneva, is a particle accelerator through which two beams of subatomic particles called "hadrons" will travel in opposite directions inside a 17-mile tunnel, gaining energy as they go. When the beams collide, physicists will analyze the particles created by the collisions.

Beryllium beam pipes produced by Electrofusion are currently installed in three of the four main experiments at which the beams will collide. Electrofusion will also be providing a beryllium beam pipe in late 2010 as a replacement for the existing beam pipe in the fourth main detector, LHCb.

"It's not every day you get a call asking to help discover how the universe was created," said Edward Hefter, Managing Director, Electrofusion Products Inc.

The beryllium in the beam pipes is virtually transparent to the subatomic particles that the collider's builder, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), is searching for because of its low atomic number and low density. Those properties make beryllium the material of choice surrounding the collision region in collider particle physics experiments. Low density allows the particles of interest to the experiment to reach the detectors around it without significant interference. Additionally, beryllium's stiffness allows it to remain dimensionally stable, even with the required Ultra High Vacuum (UHV) inside.

Some of the other benefits of using beryllium include its thermal stability, which allows it to perform well at temperatures only a few degrees above absolute zero; its low atomic number, which keeps it from becoming radioactive with all of the radiation bombarding it; and, its lack of magnetism, which allows the system of multi-pole magnets to steer and focus the particle beam without interference.

Although Electrofusion has been building beryllium beam pipes since 1973, these LHC projects demanded a much higher level of precision and more advanced techniques from Electrofusion than ever before.

"As with all projects of this sophistication and magnitude, collaboration and communication between CERN and Electrofusion was essential," said Hefter.

Unlike beam pipes used in other projects, these are buried deep within the Collider, surrounded by layer upon layer of detectors, thermal systems, cabling and structural supports. The resulting limited future accessibility meant that CERN engineers needed to do everything possible to minimize the possibility of failure.

As an example, previous to the LHC project, the beryllium portions of the beam pipes were joined to aluminum and stainless steel sections using an atmosphere brazing technique. However, due to materials introduced during the typical beam pipe brazing process, the risk of contamination or leaks during operation concerned the engineers at CERN. Electrofusion was therefore encouraged to investigate alternative joining processes for the LHC beam pipes. In response, Electrofusion developed processes for joining beryllium to beryllium and beryllium to aluminum using electron beam welding. Joining beryllium to stainless steel was achieved by vacuum furnace brazing.

Although these improved joining techniques minimized contamination and leakage concerns, they brought with them a new challenge: how to predict and compensate for the distortion of beam pipe sections during the newly developed joining processes. The mechanical tolerance specifications were extremely challenging so Electrofusion developed sophisticated tooling coupled with complex theoretical calculations to achieve the end result.

"Working together, we overcame manufacturing challenges and met the very demanding tolerance callouts specified by the project engineers and the limitations of precision manufacturing," said Hefter. "We're looking forward to future modifications and improvements that will make LHC experiments even more productive."

Brush Wellman Inc., headquartered in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brush Engineered Materials Inc. (NYSE: BW). Through its subsidiaries, Brush Engineered Materials supplies highly engineered advanced enabling materials to global markets. Products include precious and non-precious specialty metals, inorganic chemicals and powders, specialty coatings, specialty engineered beryllium alloys, beryllium and beryllium composites, and engineered clad and plated metal systems.

SOURCE: Brush Wellman Inc.

Brush Engineered Materials Inc.
Michael C. Hasychak, 216-383-6823
Patrick S. Carpenter, 216-383-6835
Mayfield Hts-g

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