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  • Voltaire Staff

CERN set to build newer, bigger particle collider at $21 billion

CERN, home to the renowned Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, is embarking on a new venture -- the development of a next-generation particle accelerator at an estimated budget of €20 billion, or $21.48 billion.

The proposed Future Circular Collider (FCC) spanning Switzerland and France will have a circumference exceeding 90 kilometres.

This massive structure will collide protons at energies up to 100 teraelectronvolts (TeV), a significant advance from the 14 TeV achieved by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Officials presented the FCC proposal to CERN's council, seeking approval to begin work on the accelerator within the next five years.

"The Future Circular Collider (FCC) study is developing designs for a new research infrastructure to host the next generation of higher performance particle colliders to extend the research currently being conducted at the LHC, once the High-Luminosity phase (HL-LHC) reaches its conclusion in around 2040," CERN wrote on its website.

Scientists are keen to start building the FCC soon to ensure it's ready when the Large Hadron Collider finishes in the 2040s. The CERN council discussed the FCC's feasibility study, aiming for approval within five years and completion by the 2040s.

Should the project receive approval, its construction would unfold in two distinct stages. Initially, experiments would focus on colliding electrons and positrons, followed by a subsequent phase slated for the 2070s, dedicated to proton collisions.

Due to the increased radiation output of the machine, it would necessitate being situated twice as deep underground as the Large Hadron Collider.

Prof Fabiola Gianotti, the director general of Cern, said: "If approved, the FCC would be the most powerful microscope ever built to study the laws of nature at the smallest scales and highest energies, with the goal of addressing some of the outstanding questions in today’s fundamental physics and our understanding of the universe."

The Large Hadron Collider accelerates protons and various subatomic particles to nearly the speed of light, simulating the conditions fractions of a second after the big bang.

As the largest collider globally, this apparatus played a pivotal role in uncovering the Higgs boson in 2012, a groundbreaking achievement.

The achievement was recognised with a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013, that was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter W Higgs "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles."

All the same, the ambitious project is not without its critics.

Sir David King, the UK’s former government chief scientific adviser, warned that allocating billions to the machine would be "reckless" amidst the profound challenges posed by the climate crisis, BBC reported.

On the other hand, Prof Jon Butterworth, a member of the Atlas experiment at the Large Hadron Collider and a professor of physics at University College London, emphasised on the need to go further deep into the subatomic world to understand universe better.

"This is about extending the frontier of human knowledge into the heart of matter and the fundamental forces, in part to see how fundamental they really are," he said.  





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