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Date set for restart of Large Hadron Collider

CERN's ground-breaking particle accelerator, which was shut down after a malfunction caused a leak of liquid helium, is scheduled to begin operating again in April.

The Large Hadron Collider will be turned on again at the beginning of April, according to Robert Aymar, CERN's director general.

The LHC, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, was built by the European nuclear-research organization to conduct experiments to test fundamental physics theories and to search for important new science such as the Higgs Boson.

Images: Where particles, physics theories collide
Click image for gallery on the Large Hadron Collider. Maximilien Brice for CERN

The particle beam machine, located at the border between France and Switzerland, was first powered up on September 10, but the experiment had to be closed down on September 19 after a malfunction caused a leak of liquid helium.

Aymar said that at the moment, the scientists at CERN do not know what caused the leak, as the equipment, which needs to be cooled to operate, still had to heat up to room temperature to be examined.

"We have to perform a test, but we cannot believe a magnet is faulty," Aymar told ZDNet UK on Friday at the official launch at CERN of its grid-computing system, which has actually been running since 2003. "At the moment, we think it is an (electrical) connection. We have thousands of connections, and they can't all be tested...We'll see after the magnet returns to room temperature."

The LHC will come back online at the beginning of April, after a period of maintenance. Aymar said that from November 15 to the beginning of April, all the accelerators are closed down each year for maintenance. The closure period also reduces the winter load on the French power grid, which normally supplies power to the experiment.

"In general, we call (the maintenance period) 'consolidation,' but really we have to do it; otherwise, (the accelerators) would fall apart," Aymar said.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from CERN's headquarters.