• Question: What is a Hadron Collider?

    Asked by Harry to Kathryn on 13 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Kathryn Coldham

      Kathryn Coldham answered on 13 Nov 2018:


      The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a big, ring-shaped machine in Switzerland used to smash particles together at speeds close to the speed of light! It smashes particles together at an energy of 13TeV (this is about 13 times the kinetic energy a flying mosquito has – a very high energy for a tiny particle to have!). This recreates the conditions from just after the Big Bang and, from this, we can use detectors on the LHC ring to observe new particles or learn more about the ones we have already found!

      It is very large (27 kilometres in circumference), which is about the same size as the Circle line of the London Underground (this fact was mentioned in a book called “Smashing Physics” by Jon Butterworth – I really recommend reading it!). It smashes hadrons together (hadron is the name given to particles that are made up of a smaller type of particle, called a quark).

      The LHC belongs to an organisation called CERN (here’s the CERN website: https://home.cern/). Many particles have been found using the Large Hadron Collider (including the Higgs boson, which gives other particles their masses), and CERN is even the place where the World Wide Web was invented!

      I work on one of the detectors that is on the LHC ring. The detector is called the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, which is divided into layers so each layer detects a different type of particle. (Here is the link to the CMS website: https://cms.cern/)

      Feel free to ask any more questions you have – I’m happy to answer them 🙂

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