CERN to partner with industry on innovation to reduce environmental impact of large-scale facilities

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Cooling & Ventilation
Pipes belonging to the SF1 cooling towers that are cooling ATLAS and SPS (BA6) equipment. (Image: CERN)

In its commitment to minimising its environmental impact and developing technologies that can help society towards a better planet, CERN has formed an innovation partnership with ABB, with the aim of reducing the Laboratory’s energy consumption through the optimisation of its cooling and ventilation system.


In its research, CERN pushes the limits of science and engineering, requiring specific and oftentimes extreme conditions for its experiments to take place. Roughly half of the energy consumed at CERN is used for powering the world’s largest and highest-energy particle collider - the Large Hadron Collider - and running various experiments, with the remaining half consumed in auxiliary systems and services, such as motors used to drive pumps, fans, compressors, and cooling towers.

In line with CERN’s commitment to managing its environmental footprint and developing technologies that can help society towards a better planet, an innovation partnership with ABB Motion, a global technology leader in suppling world-class drives and motors, has been launched with the aim of optimizing the laboratory’s cooling and ventilation infrastructure to reduce its energy consumption. Results and best practices from this collaboration will be shared publicly to support industries and large-scale research facilities around the world in becoming more energy efficient.

Specifically, CERN’s cooling and ventilation system will be equipped with smart sensors, which convert traditional motors, pumps, mounted bearings and gearing into smart, wirelessly connected devices. These devices will collect data that will be used to develop digital twins of selected cooling and ventilation systems, allowing for the creation of energy saving scenarios. The aim is to apply the ideal scenarios from the digital twin to CERN’s cooling and ventilation infrastructure, and to disseminate the learnings publicly; inspiring industries and large-scale research facilities around the world to become more energy efficient. In addition, the diagnostics will also provide information regarding the equipment condition, which may in the future allow for predictive maintenance strategies to be applied.

This project will be a truly collaborative effort between industry and the various areas of expertise present here at CERN. As a first time knowledge-transfer project for the CV team, we are looking forward to combining our expertise of the CV infrastructure together with the Information Management team’s digital competencies to study new ways of operating and maintaining our systems that have the potential of a significant impact not only within CERN, but throughout wider society as well.

says Ingo Ruehl, head of CERNs Cooling and Ventilation (CV) group.

The project will take place over a two-year period and will involve several phases. Firstly, the Laboratory’s cooling and ventilation system will be mapped to enable the installation of the sensors and the collection of the data. Following this, the creation of the system’s digital twin and the development of energy efficiency improvement scenarios will take place, with the project concluding with the application of the digital twin and the public dissemination of the results and best practices.

A collaboration project with CERN is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how the domain knowledge, operational data and latest developments in data analytics and connectivity can improve the energy efficiency of cooling and ventilation infrastructure at CERN. The project team is looking forward to jointly developing new methods and approaches while showcasing how large-scale research facilities can be both efficient and reliable.

says Dmitry Svechkarenko, project lead from ABB Corporate Research.

The project is unique in that it emerged from the first ever joint event hosted by Big Science Sweden and CERN in November 2020, and is an opportunity to inspire industries and large-scaled research facilities around the world to become more sustainable.

If you would like to see more images of CERN's cooling and ventilation infrastructure, please see the CDS album here.