The French are preparing to spend a winter under the sign of sobriety. But households and businesses are not the only ones to suffer from rising energy prices. Scientists, too, must pay attention to their consumption.
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Some scientific experiments require a lot of energy. We take an example, that of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. Researchers from all over the world work there with what is called a particle accelerator. It is, in fact, a tunnel in the shape of a circle. 27km in total, under the Franco-Swiss border. It can propel particles almost at the speed of light. These protons then collide, generating a multitude of other particles that scientists can analyze to try to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
This type of machine consumes a phenomenal amount of electricity because the magnets used to accelerate the particles must be cooled to minus 271°C.
CERN’s electricity consumption thus represents a third of the consumption of the canton of Geneva, where more than 500,000 people live! This electricity comes mainly from French nuclear power plants, and in particular that of Bugey in Ain, and given the energy crisis in Europe, the management therefore decided to save money.
To avoid the shortage, the researchers will stop their experiments earlier. The technical shutdown of the machines has been brought forward by two weeks, to November 28, 2022. CERN also plans to reduce the operation of its accelerators by 20% next year. In order not to waste too much, part of the heat given off by the installations will soon be recovered. It will heat residents of the neighboring town of Ferney-Voltaire in France.
CERN physicists are not the only ones to have to pay attention to their consumption. Rising energy costs are impacting many labs. The bill could be salty, according to the Ministry of Higher Education, this could represent nearly 100 million euros more for research organizations. What can encourage the supporters of what is called “frugal science“. A movement that militates to experiment to innovate with sobriety with instruments at lower cost and consuming as little as possible.