Universiteit Leiden

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New facility for production of liquid helium and new low-vibration lab

After 2 years of planning, designing, testing and adjusting, the brand-new low-vibration physics lab at the new Gorlaeus Building of the Science Campus is working like a charm and ready to make its mark in the world of science. Also, the renewed facility for the production of liquid helium is all done.

Precision measurements

The construction of the the brand-new low-vibration physics lab is supported by an enormous, 1-meter thick concrete floor and gigantic damped springs, which almost entirely absorb every hint of vibration. This is of paramount importance for researchers, who execute precision measurements at the atomic scale in the ice-cold silence of temperatures close to absolute zero. Without these extreme measures, every speeding truck on the A44 highway ruins the whole experiment.


Over the last couple of years, research technician Marcel Hesselberth has put much time and effort in getting the measurement island as quiet as possible. In the end, he managed to make the low-vibration lab one of the most silent in the world. This is an ever bigger achievement if you consider Leiden’s soil; peaty clay is notoriously difficult to build on.

Ingenious construction

In his presentation, Hesselberth explains the mechanisms behind the ingenious construction, and how he brought down the vibration level to over a hundred times that of the current physics building. ‘Our measurements were so sensitive that we could even tell the force of the wind outside,’ he says while the big screen shows two equal graphs of the registered vibrations and the official wind force numbers of that moment. The new science campus is now on the exclusive list of the best low-vibration labs in the world.

Liquid helium

The renewed liquid helium facility is still located in the Huygens Building and much less affected by vibrations. Yet, this installation was in need for improvement as well. The old one had reached a certain age and started showing several defects. On top of that, the construction was not suited to move to the new campus. The new facility has lower production and personnel costs, a smaller impact on the environment and offers the possibility to adjust the production quantity.

Image caption: LION research technician Marcel Hesselberth poses next to one of the helium tanks during the celebrations in the new facility for liquid helium.

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