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Large Hadron Collider

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Construction of the U.S. ATLAS Detector at the LHC  (Columbia University)

Construction of the U.S. CMS Detector at the LHC  (Northeastern University)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

An international team has installed the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in a 27-kilometer ring buried deep below the countryside on the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland. When it begins colliding particles, the LHC will be the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. Scientists predict that its proton collisions will yield extraordinary discoveries about the nature of the physical universe. Beyond revealing a new world of unknown particles, LHC experiments could explain why those particles exist and behave as they do. These experiments could reveal the origins of mass, shed light on dark matter, uncover hidden symmetries of the universe, and possibly find extra dimensions of space.

Billions of protons in the LHC’s two counter-rotating particle beams will smash together at an energy of 14 trillion electron volts. After injection into the accelerator, the hair-thin proton beams will accelerate to a whisker below the speed of light. They will circulate for hours, guided around the LHC ring by thousands of powerful superconducting magnets. For most of their split-second journey around the ring, the beams travel in two separate vacuum pipes, but at four points they collide in the hearts of the main experiments, known by their acronyms: ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb.

The experiments' complex detectors could see up to 600 million collisions per second, as the energy of colliding protons transforms fleetingly into a plethora of exotic particles. In the data from these collisions scientists from universities and laboratories around the world will search for the tracks of particles whose existence would transform the understanding of the universe we live in.

In all, more than 8,000 scientists and students from almost 60 nations on six continents collaborate on the LHC's six experiments. Of those, about 1,700 come from universities and laboratories in the United States. Federal funding for the US scientists' work comes from the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy and from the National Science Foundation.

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  • Image of the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider.
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