Introduction to Machine Protection

R. Schmidt


Protection of accelerator equipment is as old as accelerator technology and was for many years related to high-power equipment. Examples are the protection of powering equipment from overheating (magnets, power converters, high-current cables), of superconducting magnets from damage after a quench and of klystrons. The protection of equipment from beam accidents is more recent, although there was one paper that discussed beam-induced damage for the SLAC linac (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) as early as in 1967. It is related to the increasing beam power of high-power proton accelerators, to the emission of synchrotron light by electron–positron accelerators and to the increase of energy stored in the beam. Designing a machine protection system requires an excellent understanding of accelerator physics and operation to anticipate possible failures that could lead to damage. Machine protection includes beam and equipment monitoring, a system to safely stop beam operation (e.g. dumping the beam or stopping the beam at low energy) and an interlock system providing the glue between these systems. The most recent accelerator, LHC, will operate with about 3 × 1014 protons per beam, corresponding to an energy stored in each beam of 360 MJ. This energy can cause massive damage to accelerator equipment in case of uncontrolled beam loss, and a single accident damaging vital parts of the accelerator could interrupt operation for years. This lecture will provide an overview of the requirements for protection of accelerator equipment and introduces various protection systems. Examples are mainly from LHC and ESS.


Machine protection; interlock system; high-power accelerator; beam loss; accident.

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