What is CERN's Large Hadron Collider?


Quick Answer

The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. The LHC consists of a ring of superconducting magnets 27 kilometers in length. This ring accelerates beams of protons and ions to velocities approaching the speed of light. These beams are then collided, and the results are studied and recorded.

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Full Answer

The LHC creates two high-energy particle beams. These beams travel in opposite directions through specially designed tubes that contain an ultrahigh vacuum. Strong magnetic fields maintained by powerful superconducting electromagnets guide the particle beams around the accelerator ring. These magnets utilize special electric cables that operate in a superconducting state when cooled to very low temperatures.

A liquid helium distribution system that runs throughout the LHC facility cools the electromagnets to temperatures lower than those found in outer space . The accelerator controls and technical infrastructure needed to operate the LHC are all housed with the CERN Control Center.

As of 2015, the LHC is the largest and most complex experimental facility ever constructed and the largest single machine in the world. It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research between 1998 and 2008; over 10,000 scientists and engineers from many different countries participated in the construction of the LHC.

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