Engineers from Birmingham have stepped in to help scientists get back on track with a multi-billion pound experiment to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
Precision pressings firm Brandauer has played a part in the repair of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which aims to recreate the conditions found at the creation of the universe milliseconds after the big bang, after the project stalled because of mechanical problems.
The company was approached by scientists at CERN (The European Organisation for Nuclear Research), which is organising the experiment. The company then supplied 2,500 specially made pressure relief springs to go towards the repair of the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, located on the Swiss-French border.
Brandauer managing director David Spears said the company was chosen because the valve springs needed to be manufactured from beryllium-copper alloy, which the firm specialises in.
He said: “We were approached to design and manufacture springs for new valves that will prevent pressure build-up by allowing for more helium gas to be released in the event of a sudden increase in temperature within the LHC.”
“CERN came to us when they had a problem and this is the type of job at which we excel: a tough application with difficult metals and almost impossible deadlines,” he added.
“It is also very encouraging to see some of the money that the UK Government invests in CERN being spent in the Midlands and the fact that the scientists turned to a British company for help reflects the country’s reputation for engineering excellence.”
The deal with CERN was worth £200,000 to Brandauer, which turned over £8.5 million last year. Mr Spears said the specialist springs were needed to cope with the high-pressure environment in the LHC, which contains hundreds of magnets weighing more than 27 tonnes in total.
After spending a month working with the CERN scientists and engineers to develop the ideal design solution, Brandauer has almost completed the order and the new valves are currently being installed.
Brandauer, which was founded more than 140 years ago, exports 75 per cent of its output, including to China, the US, Mexico and Poland.
The company supplies the telecoms, medical, automotive, electrical industries. It manufactures all of its products in the UK and 95 per cent of tools are made in-house.
It employs 53 members of staff, after cutting back its workforce from 73 in November.
Head of sales Peter Clifton said: “It is exciting to work with such a prestigious project.
“We are really quite proud of this.”