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The Large Hadron Collider

CERN – Franco-Swiss border (Geneva)

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a marvel of modern particle physics that has enabled researchers to plumb the depths of reality. Its origins stretch all the way back to 1977, when Sir John Adams, the former director of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), suggested building an underground tunnel that could accommodate a particle accelerator capable of reaching extraordinarily high energies.

LHC is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It first started up on 10 September 2008, and remains the latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex. The LHC consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.

The project took a quarter of a century to realize; planning began in 1984, and the final go-ahead was granted in 1994. Thousands of scientists and engineers from dozens of countries were involved in designing, planning, and building the LHC, and the cost for materials and manpower was nearly $5 billion; this does not include the cost of running experiments and computers.

What is the LHC?

The LHC is a particle accelerator that pushes protons or ions to near the speed of light. It consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures that boost the energy of the particles along the way.

Why is it called the “Large Hadron Collider”?

  • “Large” refers to its size, approximately 27km in circumference
  • “Hadron” because it accelerates protons or ions, which belong to the group of particles called hadrons
  • “Collider” because the particles form two beams travelling in opposite directions, which are made to collide at four points around the machine

How does the LHC work?

The CERN accelerator complex is a succession of machines with increasingly higher energies. Each machine accelerates a beam of particles to a given energy before injecting the beam into the next machine in the chain. This next machine brings the beam to an even higher energy and so on. The LHC is the last element of this chain, in which the beams reach their highest energies.

What is the LHC power consumption?

The total power consumption of the LHC (and experiments) is equivalent to 600 GWh per year, with a maximum of 650 GWh in 2012 when the LHC was running at 4 TeV. For Run 2, the estimated power consumption is 750 GWh per year.
The total CERN energy consumption is 1.3 TWh per year while the total electrical energy production in the world is around 20000 TWh, in the European Union 3400 TWh, in France around 500 TWh, and in Geneva canton 3 TWh.

What are the main goals of the LHC?

The Standard Model of particle physics – a theory developed in the early 1970s that describes the fundamental particles and their interactions – has precisely predicted a wide variety of phenomena and so far successfully explained almost all experimental results in particle physics. But the Standard Model is incomplete. It leaves many questions open, which the LHC will help to answer.

The Large Hadron Collider was built to answer many basic questions of science and the universe and to further develop technologies, such as medical imaging, electronics, radiation processing, new manufacturing processes and more.

Meanwhile, physicists at CERN have unveiled a blueprint for a huge 100 km-circumference particle smasher that would be used to study the Higgs boson in unprecedented detail as well as search for new physics.

Today, the conceptual design report has been released for the Future Circular Collider (FCC) – an underground particle collider that would be linked with the existing Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva.

An FCC conceptual design report was submitted as input to the 2020 update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics. Following the adoption of this update by the CERN Council in 2020, CERN was mandated to carry out a technical and financial feasibility study for the FCC to be ready for the next update of the strategy, foreseen for 2027.

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