Particle Accelerators and how they Work

Particle accelerators (PA’s) are used in many countries, which are trying to learn about and possibly discover particles, whether it is where they originated, or to just try to recreate natural phenomenon’s such as a black hole. The most recent one, which is also getting the most publicity, is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which was conceptualized by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which lies on the border between France and Switzerland. The scientific team assembling the LHC is comprised of over 2,000 physicists from more than 35 countries.
The LHC is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator ever created. Its concrete catacomb forms an approximately 17 mile long loop, an average nine feet in diameter, 300 feet below the surface, with a maximum slope of three-and-a-half percent. The whole thing is actually built in an underground river bed that was first frozen with liquid nitrogen probes, then dug up in order to place the immense concrete structure. In addition, the whole project cost approximately 8 billion dollars, which is being conjointly paid for by the 35 participating countries; however the physicists working on it agree that it is worth it because it could shed light on new and old questions, as well as answer unasked questions.
So one might ask, ‘How exactly does it work?’ In this case, it begins with an extremely large amount of metal piping and various scientific equipment which will run the entire 17 mile loop. Along this, carefully placed, will be more than sixteen-hundred supercooled, cylindrical magnets, each weighing more than 30 tons, which will guide the hydrogen beam particles, protons, neutrons, and Lead particles around the bends of the LHC at approximately 0.99 times of the speed of light, to one of the two locations where they will hopefully collide with another beam particle, also traveling approximately 0.99 times the speed of light.
The two positions where the beam particles collide are the locations of a Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS) which are present to take data on the 30 million to 600 million collisions that take place within a single second while the LHC is online. The ‘small’ CMS that the LHC uses is approximately 2,000 tons which is equal to one-third the weight of the Eiffel Tower and the size of a house; whereas ATLAS, which is actuality the world’s largest CMS, stands seven stories tall and weighs more than the Eiffel Tower.
Both these are actually very large electromagnets holding extremely large amounts of energy. For example, the CMS magnet-detector holds enough energy to melt 18 tons of gold. When these two enormous scientific tools are in operation they will suck massive amounts of energy in order to transform the data they have collected into petabytes of information.
In addition to the more than sixteen-hundred cylindrical magnets, who’s only purpose is to slightly bend the path of the beam particles, protons, neutrons, Lead particles, and any other particle they wish to accelerate, there will be a completely separate apparatus which will supply the energy, in electrical waves, to accelerate the beam particles. This exterior apparatus will supply 14 TeV of energy, or Teraelectron Volts which are equivalent to 1.60217646 x 10-7 joules. This is seven times greater than that of the previous most powerful particle accelerator, therefore the electrical waves should provide enough acceleration to the particles for them to collide traveling at approximately 0.99 times the speed of light. Which will hopefully transform the particles in to wads of energy, then change back in to discovered interesting particles or possibly even lead to the discovery of new particles.
This is where the third of the four major experiments taking place at the LHC comes in. A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) is set to understand the composition of the known universe by studying a state of matter called Quark-Gluon Plasma which is where particles such as quarks and gluons flow freely. By studying this physicists hope to understand the Strong nuclear force, which is the primary force that binds quarks and gluons in order to create hadrons (particles such as protons and neutrons).
With the accelerated particles in the LHC creating wads of energy that will change in to other particles, the small group of physicists working on ALICE hope that it will also create Quark-Gluon Plasma. However, there is one catch with this experiment; the Quark-Gluon Plasma needs to be created by lead nuclei collisions, which will occur approximately one month every year. This will consist of approximately 50,000 lead nuclei to lead nuclei collisions per second, yet ALICE is not the first experiment of this kind but it will be on the cutting edge of research for this project because it is the heavy ion experiment for the LHC.
The fourth experiment that will be conducted at the LHC is the Total Cross Section, Elastic Scattering and Diffraction Dissociation (TOTEM) Experiment. The TOTEM Experiment will study how the shape and size of a proton varies with different energy levels in proton to proton collisions. In addition, it will study inelastic proton to proton collisions, which are collisions in which one of the protons survives and continues along its previous path while the other proton disintegrated, and elastic proton to proton collisions, which are collisions in which both protons survive and continue along their previous paths with minor alterations. This will help in determining the LHC’s total cross section, which is the proton to proton collision probability, which in turn, will help determine the probability of producing certain particles such as the Higgs Boson.
The Higgs Boson is a particle which has gained the name “the God Particle” by man physicists because it theoretically is the carrier of a field that interacts with all other particles. Some physicists presume that it has a mass that is 100 to 200 times that of a proton, and that is why the Higgs Boson has not been found yet because theoretically the moment it is created it decomposes in to smaller particles, and to create it you need a large amount of energy. Therefore, it is suspected that the LHC will be able to provide that power and therefore prove physicist Peter Higgs theory correct.
As Theoretical physicist John Ellis analogized, “Different fundamental particles are like a crowd of people running through mud. Some particles, like quarks, have big boots that get covered with lots of mud; other, like electrons, have little shoes that barely gather any mud at all. Photons don’t wear shoes- they just glide over the top of the mud without picking any up. And the Higgs field is the mud,”(2008) which means that some particles are more interactive with the Higgs field than others, and some don’t even interact with it at all.
Therefore using particle accelerators, physicists would like to unravel the web or framework of the universe in order to create a model that is practically perfect. As well as to learn what the other 95 percent of mass the universe is made up of is. These mass objects are currently called, and will most likely still be called, dark matter; which is the matter that has mass but instead of reflecting light like matter we see, it absorbs all that light making it theoretically ‘invisible’. It is also hoped that the collision of particles will bring about the discovery of new dimensions to Space-Time.

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US/LHC, The science of TOTEM. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from US/LHC Particle Physics at Discovery.
US/LHC, The science of ATLAS and CMS. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from US/LHC Particle Physics at Discovery.