Thursday, October 28, 2010

Particle Accelerator by CERN

Tonight, I write to express my interest in Earth's largest operating machine. The Large Hadron Collider is the most complex scientific instrument in use today. It is run by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and it is buried 574 ft (175 m) below ground on the border of France and Switzerland, near Geneva, Switzerland.

The LHC can be found buried underground in Europe (Image: CERN).

The central LHC accelerating ring. It spans a 5.3 mile long (8.6 km) diameter (Image: CERN).

When powered up, the LHC releases beams made up of protons or other ions through a series of interconnected ring-shaped tunnels. Accelerated by giant superconducting magnets, the particles reach speeds approximating 99.9% the speed of light. As they approach the largest ring (highlighted in yellow), which is nearly 17 mi (27 km) in circumference, engineers collide the particles in testing rooms the size of warehouses. Results are then recorded by sensors placed in these rooms and studied in order to provide useful information about the nature of the particles that belong to the standard model of particle physics. Scientists and engineers examine the results of current research efforts either to try to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, the key to the origin of mass in the universe, or to gain additional knowledge regarding the dynamics of subatomic particles.

Engineers working inside the LHC (Image: CERN).

Engineers have been maintaining and upgrading the LHC ever since achieving the first successful particle beam circulation in September of 2008. This year, on March 30, 2010, the LHC broke the record for the highest-energy man-made collision event ever planned between two 3.5 teraelectronvolt beams. It might also be able to shed light on the unification of fundamental forces, such as that of the electroweak interaction, found at very high temperatures. With a maximum operating energy of 14 TeV, the LHC is set to advance a new era in physics over the next few years.

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