CERN – The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It first started up on 10 September 2008, and remains the latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex. The LHC consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.

Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes – two tubes kept at ultrahigh vacuum. They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets. The electromagnets are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy. This requires chilling the magnets to ‑271.3°C – a temperature colder than outer space. For this reason, much of the accelerator is connected to a distribution system of liquid helium, which cools the magnets, as well as to other supply services.

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator (Image: CERN)

Thousands of magnets of different varieties and sizes are used to direct the beams around the accelerator. These include 1232 dipole magnets 15 metres in length which bend the beams, and 392 quadrupole magnets, each 5–7 metres long, which focus the beams. Just prior to collision, another type of magnet is used to “squeeze” the particles closer together to increase the chances of collisions. The particles are so tiny that the task of making them collide is akin to firing two needles 10 kilometres apart with such precision that they meet halfway.

https://timeline.web.cern.ch/timelines/The-Large-Hadron-Collider/export

All the controls for the accelerator, its services and technical infrastructure are housed under one roof at the CERN Control Centre. From here, the beams inside the LHC are made to collide at four locations around the accelerator ring, corresponding to the positions of four particle detectors – ATLASCMSALICE and LHCb.

Explore the CERN Control Centre with Google Street View (Image: Google Street View)

 

Technicians get around the tunnel on bicycles

Facts and Figures [PDF]

How many kilometres of cables are there on the LHC? How low is the pressure in the beam pipe? Discover facts and figures about the Large Hadron Collider in the handy LHC guide

Download the LHC guide [PDF]

CERN firefighters during their daily safety training

Safety of the LHC

CERN takes safety very seriously. This report by the LHC Safety Assessment Group (LSAG) confirms that LHC collisions present no danger and that there are no reasons for concern

Read about the safety of the LHC

LHC

Virtual tour

Take a virtual tour of the Large Hadron Collider

Voir en français

Featured updates on this topic

12 Apr 2018 – The Large Hadron Collider has initiated the collision of proton beams for the first time this year

15 Dec 2017 – CERN celebrates 25 years since the beginning of the LHC experimental programme

25 Nov 2016 – The Train Inspection Monorail (TIM) is equipped with a camera and several measurement sensors to monitor the LHC tunnel in real-time

Updates

25 May 2018 – A year after the discovery of a new doubly charmed baryon, LHCb announces the measurement of its lifetime

7 May 2018 – Can machine learning assist high-energy physics in discovering and characterising new particles?

30 Apr 2018 – The LHC operators hope to break last year’s record for total proton-proton collisions delivered to the experiments

29 Mar 2018 – Protons have been circulating in the Large Hadron Collider since Friday 30 March, marking the start of the machine’s seventh year of operation

9 Mar 2018 – As CERN’s winter shutdown draws to a close, watch this video to see what has been going on underground

5 Dec 2017 – Before the LHC was shut down for the winter, the operators tested techniques under development for its successor, the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC)

13 Nov 2017 – The LHC’s 2017 proton run has ended with record luminosity. The special runs will now take place before the winter shutdown.

30 Oct 2017 – With 19 days still to go, the LHC has reached its 2017 production target, delivering more than 45 inverse femtobarns to the experiments

12 Oct 2017 – The LHC is operating for several hours with the nuclei of xenon atoms

26 Sep 2017 – CMS experiment delves into the mystery of neutrino masses

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