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Constucting the VELO detector

Big, bulky and breakable

The experiment’s largest and heaviest component, the 1,600-tonne magnet, was built underground piece-by-piece, says Rolf Lindner, the scientist in charge of the installation process. “It was definitely the most difficult to install - we estimated it would take 3 months to assemble, but it ended up taking almost a year.”

Requiring less brawn, but considerable patience, was the installation of the RICH-2 detector – one of the experiment’s most fragile pieces of kit. Constructed on CERN site, the detector had only 8km to travel before being lowered carefully into pit 8.  But due to its extreme sensitivity, the vehicle carrying RICH-2 was restricted to a maximum speed of just 1km per hour – slower than the walking pace of a tortoise.

To keep disruption to a minimum, the move took place overnight, with traffic diverted away from the route. However, the stringent speed limit proved too much for the transport vehicle - its axles broke on two occasions, delaying the journey by 24 hours. RICH-2 was finally slotted into place in November 2005.