In the largest scientific experiment ever undertaken, protons fed into the LHC through Kyocera’s ceramic vacuum chambers quickly reach speeds of up to 299,792 km per second — just below the speed of light — in the world’s largest particle accelerator.
The chambers are made of fine ceramics because metal would produce a time lag in the magnetic fields that drive the protons. Kyocera’s chambers maintain the vacuum state present in the whole LHC system to keep the racing particles from hitting air molecules, which reduce the protons’ speed or alter their precisely controlled direction.
Protons fed into the LHC through Kyocera’s ceramic vacuum chambers quickly reach speeds of up to 299,792 km per second. When necessary, protons can also be removed from the LHC by alternating magnetic fields for example, when the LHC is to be shut down.
“As a specialist in fine ceramics, Kyocera custom-developed these vacuum chambers in close collaboration with CERN for the LHC’s unique requirements,” said Mitsuru Imanaka, president of Kyocera’s European operations.
Kyocera was the only company in a position to meet CERN’s exacting specifications for the vacuum chambers. “The technical demands of making a fine ceramic component increase in direct proportion to its size and shape,” Imanaka explained. “These vacuum chambers exceed one meter in length, requiring us to maintain a uniform, homogenous structure over a large area. Kyocera’s material and processing expertise have allowed us to produce fine ceramic components to overcome technical challenges at CERN and in many other industrial and research applications.”
The LHC showcases the unique properties of Kyocera’s precisely refined ceramic materials. Ceramic serves as an electrical insulator, allowing particles to be freely manipulated in the LHC’s highly electromagnetic environment. In addition, ceramic is more resistant to extreme temperatures, friction and corrosion than other materials — critical attributes for such a world-leading scientific project.
What might you ask does this have to do with pottery? Pottery and ceramics have been an important part of human culture for thousands of years. From prehistoric storage jars to tiles on the space shuttles, pottery and ceramics have played a key role in innumerable human endeavours. But how do we define them?
Technically, ceramics are those things made from materials which are permanently changed when heated. For example, clay has chemically-bonded water in it which will cause it to slake down (disintegrate) when a dried clay object is put in water. Once heated (fired) to between 660 and 1470F (350 and 800C), the clay is converted to ceramic and will never dissolve again.
All clay is a ceramic material, but there are other ceramic materials, as well. Glazes are also ceramic materials, because they permanently change during firing. Industrial ceramics include a range of materials such as silica carbide and zirconium oxide.