bird’s eye view of the LHC
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is by far the most powerful particle accelerator built to date. Following an upgrade,
the LHC now operates at an energy that is 7 times higher than any previous
machine! The LHC is based at
the European particle physics laboratory CERN, near Geneva in Switzerland. CERN
is the world’s largest laboratory and is dedicated to the pursuit of
of the universe after the big bang
The LHC allows scientists to reproduce the conditions that existed within a billionth of a second after the Big Bang by colliding beams of high-energy protons or ions at colossal speeds, close to the speed of light. This was the moment, around 13.7 billion years ago, when the Universe is believed to have started with an explosion of energy and matter. During these first moments all the particles and forces that shape our Universe came into existence, defining what we now see.
on the LHC beamline
The LHC is exactly what its name suggests - a large collider of hadrons (any particle made up of quarks). Strictly, LHC refers to the collider; a machine that deserves to be labelled ‘large’, it not only weighs more than 38,000 tonnes, but runs for 27km (16.5mi) in a circular tunnel 100 metres beneath the ground. Particles are propelled in two beams going around the LHC to speeds of 11,000 circuits per seconds, guided by massive superconducting magnets! These two beams are
then made to cross paths and some of the particles smash head on into one
However, the collider is only one of three essential parts of the LHC project. The other two are:
- The Detectors
Each of the four main detectors sit in huge chambers around the LHC ring to detect the outcomes of the particles colliding. ATLAS, ALICE, CMS and LHCb.
- Worldwide LHC
Computing Grid (WLCG)
A global network of computers and software that is essential to processing the masses of data recorded by all of the LHC’s detectors.
Computing Grid Globe into the computer center
The LHC is truly
global in scope because the LHC project is supported by an enormous
international community of scientists and engineers. Working in multinational teams all over the world, they are building and testing equipment and software, participating in experiments and analysing data. The UK has a major role in the project and has scientists and engineers working on all the main experiments.
In the UK, engineers and scientists at 20 research sites are involved in designing and building equipment and analysing data. UK researchers are involved with all four of the main detectors and the computer GRID. British staff based at CERN has leading roles in managing and running the collider and detectors.
The total cost of building the LHC was approximately £3.74 billion, made up of three major components1:
- The Accelerator (£3 billion)
- The Experiments (£728 million)
- The Computers (£17 million)
The total cost was shared mainly by CERN's 20 Member States, with significant contributions from the six observer nations.
The LHC project involved 111 nations in designing, building and testing equipment and software, and now continues with them participating in experiments and analysing data. The degree of involvement varies between countries, with some able to contribute more financial and human resource than others.
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