Monday, January 11, 2010

The CERN Supercollider, A Bagel, and a Capacitor

I was recently asked to weigh in on a rather unusual debate going on in Europe regarding the malfunction that derailed the CERN supercollider in France in November. According to CERN, a bird dropped a small bagel that resulted in the failure of a capacitor used in a primary cooling system. This explanation by CERN has caused some theoretical physicists to offer fantastic theories about how and why such an event transpired. However, I have polled some of the top capacitor engineers in power film capacitor design, and all agree that nothing in the ingredients of the bagel would corrode the aluminum housing to cause the capacitor to fail. The only theory is that a mold developed on the bagel that grew into the capacitor terminals causing a tin whisker type short, but I am waiting for CERN to comment on exactly how the bagel caused the capacitor to fail. What I find most interesting was that it was a "capacitor" that failed. Given the nature of the research and the reputations of the known physicists- I want to point out that on a daily basis, the Google top search under the term- "capacitor" reveals the term "flux capacitor." Someone has a keen sense of humor.