Sabtu, 20 September 2008

The Biggest for the Smallest, for the Ultimate

The biggest machine human ever built, to detect the smallest human ever theorized, to seek the most ultimate answers human ever questioned.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

Cited from wikipedia (

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator complex, intended to collide opposing beams of protons (one of several types of hadrons) with very high kinetic energy. Its main purpose is to explore the validity and limitations of the Standard Model, the current theoretical picture for particle physics. It is theorized that the collider will confirm the existence of the Higgs boson. This would supply a crucial missing link in the Standard Model and explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass.

The LHC was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and lies underneath the Franco-Swiss border between the Jura Mountains and the Alps near Geneva, Switzerland. It is funded by and built in collaboration with over eight thousand physicists from over eighty-five countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. The LHC started operations on the 10th September 2008.


The LHC is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. The collider is contained in a circular tunnel, with a circumference of 27 kilometres (17 mi), at a depth ranging from 50 to 175 metres underground.

The 3.8 m wide concrete-lined tunnel, constructed between 1983 and 1988, was formerly used to house the Large Electron-Positron Collider It crosses the border between Switzerland and France at four points, with most of it in France. Surface buildings hold ancillary equipment such as compressors, ventilation equipment, control electronics and refrigeration plants.

The collider tunnel contains two adjacent parallel beam pipes that intersect at four points, each containing a proton beam, which travel in opposite directions around the ring. Some 1,232 dipole magnets keep the beams on their circular path, while an additional 392 quadrupole magnets are used to keep the beams focused, in order to maximize the chances of interaction between the particles in the four intersection points, where the two beams will cross. In total, over 1,600 superconducting magnets are installed, with most weighing over 27 tonnes. Approximately 96 tonnes of liquid helium is needed to keep the magnets at their operating temperature of 1.9 K, making the LHC the largest cryogenic facility in the world at liquid helium temperature.

Once or twice a day, as the protons are accelerated from 450 GeV to 7 TeV, the field of the superconducting dipole magnets will be increased from 0.54 to 8.3 tesla (T). The protons will each have an energy of 7 TeV, giving a total collision energy of 14 TeV (2.2 μJ). At this energy the protons have a Lorentz factor of about 7,500 and move at about 99.999999% of the speed of light. It will take less than 90 microsecond (μs) for a proton to travel once around the main ring – a speed of about 11,000 revolutions per second. Rather than continuous beams, the protons will be bunched together, into 2,808 bunches, so that interactions between the two beams will take place at discrete intervals never shorter than 25 nanoseconds (ns) apart. However it will be operated with fewer bunches when it is first commissioned, giving it a bunch crossing interval of 75 ns.

Prior to being injected into the main accelerator, the particles are prepared by a series of systems that successively increase their energy. The first system is the linear particle accelerator LINAC 2 generating 50 MeV protons, which feeds the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB). There the protons are accelerated to 1.4 GeV and injected into the Proton Synchrotron (PS), where they are accelerated to 26 GeV. Finally the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) is used to further increase their energy to 450 GeV before they are at last injected (over a period of 20 minutes) into the main ring. Here the proton bunches are accumulated, accelerated (over a period of 20 minutes) to their peak 7 TeV energy, and finally stored for 10 to 24 hours while collisions occur at the four intersection points.

The LHC will also be used to collide lead (Pb) heavy ions with a collision energy of 1,150 TeV. The Pb ions will be first accelerated by the linear accelerator LINAC 3, and the Low-Energy Injector Ring (LEIR) will be used as an ion storage and cooler unit. The ions then will be further accelerated by the PS and SPS before being injected into LHC ring, where they will reach an energy of 2.76 TeV per nucleon.


Six detectors have been constructed at the LHC, located underground in large caverns excavated at the LHC's intersection points. Two of them, the ATLAS experiment and the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), are large, general purpose particle detectors. A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) and LHCb have more specific roles and the last two TOTEM and LHCf are very much smaller and are for very specialized research. The BBC's summary of the main detectors is:

  • ATLAS – one of two so-called general. Atlas will be used to look for signs of new physics, including the origins of mass and extra dimensions.
  • CMS – the other general purpose detector will, like ATLAS, hunt for the Higgs boson and look for clues to the nature of dark matter.
  • ALICE – will study a "liquid" form of matter called quark-gluon plasma that existed shortly after the Big Bang.
  • LHCb – equal amounts of matter and anti-matter were created in the Big Bang. LHCb will try to investigate what happened to the "missing" anti-matter.


When in operation, about seven thousand scientists from eighty countries will have access to the LHC. It is theorized that the collider will produce the elusive Higgs boson, the last unobserved particle among those predicted by the Standard Model. The verification of the existence of the Higgs boson would shed light on the mechanism of electroweak symmetry breaking, through which the particles of the Standard Model are thought to acquire their mass. In addition to the Higgs boson, new particles predicted by possible extensions of the Standard Model might be produced at the LHC. More generally, physicists hope that the LHC will enhance their ability to answer the following questions:

  • Is the Higgs mechanism for generating elementary particle masses in the Standard Model indeed realised in nature?If so, how many Higgs bosons are there, and what are their masses?
  • Are electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force just different manifestations of a single unified force, as predicted by various Grand Unification Theories?
  • Why is gravity so many orders of magnitude weaker than the other three fundamental forces?
  • Is Supersymmetry realised in nature, implying that the known Standard Model particles have supersymmetric partners?
  • Will the more precise measurements of the masses and decays of the quarks continue to be mutually consistent within the Standard Model?
  • Why are there apparent violations of the symmetry between matter and antimatter?
  • What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy?
  • Are there extra dimensions, as predicted by various models inspired by string theory, and can we detect them?
Of the possible discoveries the LHC might make, only the discovery of the Higgs particle is relatively uncontroversial, but even this is not considered a certainty. Stephen Hawking said in a BBC interview that "I think it will be much more exciting if we don't find the Higgs. That will show something is wrong, and we need to think again. I have a bet of one hundred dollars that we won't find the Higgs." In the same interview Hawking mentions the possibility of finding superpartners and adds that "whatever the LHC finds, or fails to find, the results will tell us a lot about the structure of the universe."

The LHC physics programme is mainly based on proton–proton collisions. However, shorter running periods, typically one month per year, with heavy-ion collisions are included in the programme. While lighter ions are considered as well, the baseline scheme deals with lead ions. This will allow an advancement in the experimental programme currently in progress at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). The aim of the heavy-ion programme is to provide a window on a state of matter known as Quark-gluon plasma, which characterized the early stage of the life of the Universe.


The first beam was circulated through the collider on the morning of 10 September 2008. CERN successfully fired the protons around the tunnel in stages, three kilometres at a time. The particles were fired in a clockwise direction into the accelerator and successfully steered around it at 10:28 local time. The LHC successfully completed its first major test: after a series of trial runs, two white dots flashed on a computer screen showing the protons traveled the full length of the collider. It took less than one hour to guide the stream of particles around its inaugural circuit. CERN next successfully sent a beam of protons in a counterclockwise direction, taking slightly longer at one and a half hours due to a problem with the cryogenics, with the full circuit being completed at 14:59

On 19 September a quench occurred in about 100 bending magnets in sectors 3-4, causing loss of approximately one ton of liquid He, which was vented into the tunnel. Vacuum was also lost in the affected magnets, whose temperature was raised by about 100 kelvins. Cause of the fault is being investigated over the weekend. It has since been reported that this latest incident will likely result in a delay of at least 2 months before any further particle tests can occur, the majority of this time due to the time needed to warm and then cool the affected sectors back down to operating temperature.

The first "modest" high-energy collisions at a center-of-mass energy of 900 GeV were expected to take place at the beginning of the week starting on 22 September 2008, but will now be delayed until around late November 2008, due to the quench mentioned above. Hence it is now unlikely that the LHC will be operating at 10 TeV by the time of the official inauguration on 21 October 2008, as initially predicted. The winter shut-down (starting likely around end of November) will then be used to train the superconducting magnets, such that the 2009 run will start at the full 14 TeV design energy. Expected Results Once the supercollider is up and running, CERN scientists estimate that if the Standard Model is correct, a Higgs boson may be produced every few hours. At this rate, it may take up to three years to collect enough statistics unambiguously to discover the Higgs boson. Similarly, it may take one year or more before sufficient results concerning supersymmetric particles have been gathered to draw meaningful conclusions


The total cost of the project is expected to be €3.2–6.4 billion. The construction of LHC was approved in 1995 with a budget of 2.6 billion Swiss francs (€1.6 billion), with another 210 million francs (€140 million) towards the cost of the experiments. However, cost over-runs, estimated in a major review in 2001 at around 480 million francs (€300 million) for the accelerator, and 50 million francs (€30 million) for the experiments, along with a reduction in CERN's budget, pushed the completion date from 2005 to April 2007. The superconducting magnets were responsible for 180 million francs (€120 million) of the cost increase. There were also engineering difficulties encountered while building the underground cavern for the Compact Muon Solenoid, in part due to faulty parts loaned to CERN by fellow laboratories Argonne National Laboratory, Fermilab, and KEK.


The LHC Computing Grid is being constructed to handle the massive amounts of data produced by the Large Hadron Collider. It incorporates both private fiber optic cable links and existing high-speed portions of the public Internet, enabling data transfer from CERN to academic institutions around the world

The distributed computing project LHC@home was started to support the construction and calibration of the LHC. The project uses the BOINC platform, enabling everybody with an internet connection to have scientific projects use their computer idle time, to simulate how particles will travel in the tunnel. With this information, the scientists will be able to determine how the magnets should be calibrated to gain the most stable "orbit" of the beams in the ring/


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