- The LHC, true to its name, is three things.
- First, it is large — so large that it is the world’s largest science experiment.
- Second, it is a collider. It accelerates two beams of particles in opposite directions and smashes them head on.
- Third, these particles are hadrons.
- Currently, engineers are warming up the LHC for its third season of operations, following upgrades that will have made the collider and its detectors more sensitive and accurate than before.
- It will start collecting data again from mid-May.
What is LHC?
- The Large Hadron Collider is a giant, complex machine built to study particles that are the smallest known building blocks of all things.
- Structure: LHC is a 27-km-long track-loop buried 100m underground on the Swiss-French border.
- Operation: In its operational state, it fires two beams of protons almost at the speed of light in opposite directions inside a ring of superconducting electromagnets.
- Guided by magnetic field: The magnetic field created by the superconducting electromagnets keeps the protons in a tight beam and guides them along the way as they travel through beam pipes and finally collide.
- High precision: The particles are so tiny that the task of making them collide is akin to firing two needles 10 km apart with such precision that they meet halfway.
- Supercooled: Since the LHC’s powerful electromagnets carry almost as much current as a bolt of lightning, they must be kept chilled. It uses liquid helium to keep its critical components ultracold at minus 271.3 degrees Celsius, which is colder than interstellar space.
- ‘God Particle’ discovery: In scientists at CERN had announced the discovery of the Higgs boson or the ‘God Particle’ during the LHC’s first run.
- This led to Peter Higgs and his collaborator François Englert being awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2013.
- The Higgs boson is the fundamental particle associated with the Higgs field, a field that gives mass to other fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks.
- ‘New Physics’ beyond Standard Model
New quest: To further the understanding of so-called “dark matter”: Dar matter is a hard-to-detect, the hoped-for particle is believed to make up most of the universe, but is completely invisible as it does not absorb, reflect, or emit light.