these are the two strategies that will allow you to go beyond the Higgs boson

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest machine ever built by man. And it is also one of the most complex. To this particle accelerator located at the CERN facilities, on the border between France and Switzerland, we not only owe the discovery of the Higgs boson; also many other findings that have not had as much importance in the media, but that are also helping scientists to elaborate new physics.

The volume of data generated by the detectors, which are the machines that are in charge of reading and collecting the information generated during the collisions of the protons, is staggering. During a year of work CMS, ATLAS, ALICE, LHCb, TOTEM, MoEDAL and LHCf, the seven detectors that the LHC has, provide the researchers with several tens of millions of gigabytes of information that needs to be carefully processed and analyzed to extract new knowledge.

During one year of work, the LHC detectors provide researchers with several tens of millions of gigabytes of information.

However, the LHC is not always on. During the activity phases, the experiments that scientists have previously designed in the hope of confirming their theories and making discoveries are carried out, but when the planned experiments have already been carried out the activity ceases. The LHC shuts down and the technicians are preparing to make the necessary improvements to be able to carry out new experiments, so that the stoppage and activity phases are successively interspersed.

Once we have reached this point, it is reasonable to ask ourselves what kind of modifications it is necessary to introduce in a particle accelerator so that it allows us to go one step further in the search for new physics. CERN scientists have devised two different strategies. One of them is to increase the brightness of the accelerator, and the other requires working with a higher energy level. Much higher. But they both have something in common: they require the development of new technology.

In search of the high luminosity LHC

Currently the large hadron collider is in a stall phase. It is precisely being modified to increase its luminosity, a parameter that measures how many potential particle collisions they are produced per unit area and time. Brightness is measured in inverse femtobarns, so that each of them is equivalent to 100 trillion collisions between protons. Of course, it is about billions on a long scale, so an inverse femtobarn is 100 million million collisions (1014).

The high luminosity LHC should be capable of producing 250 inverse femtobarns every year

From the beginning of the experiments in the accelerator, in 2010, until the end of 2018, which was the moment in which its activity ceased, 150 inverse femtobarns were produced inside. According to the current planning of CERN technicians, the modifications that the LHC requires to increase its luminosity will be ready from 2026, so the high luminosity accelerator should be able to produce 250 inverse femtobarns every year until reaching 4,000 during the entire period of activity.

To increase the brightness of the accelerator so much it is necessary concentrate the particle beams just before the collision. In this way the protons will be closer together, which increases the probability that two of them will collide when accelerated in opposite directions along the curved path of the accelerator. And, as we can guess, the scale of the modifications that must be made to the installation to concentrate the particle beams is enormous.

Cms This is what the CMS detector looks like. Its complexity is even greater than that of the LHC itself.

CERN technicians are currently installing CMS and ATLAS detectors new superconducting magnets made of a compound of niobium and tin that has never been used in a particle accelerator. This superconducting compound will increase the intensity of the magnetic field from the 8 tesla of current magnets. up to 12 teslas in the new superconducting magnets, and it will also be used in the two dipole magnets used to bend the path of the beams.

Physicists hope that the high-luminosity LHC will allow them to go beyond the Standard Model in the search for new physics.

However, this is not all. To carry the electrical current required by the accelerator and the new magnets, it is necessary to use new magnesium boride cables capable of carrying electrical currents of up to 100,000 amps and to withstand extremely high temperatures. The Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research (CIEMAT), the University of Oviedo, the Institute of Physics of Cantabria, the Autonomous University of Madrid and the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics are some of the Spanish institutions that are participating in the development of new technologies that requires the development of the high luminosity LHC.

Everything we have seen so far is very interesting, but the most exciting thing is the knowledge that physicists hope to acquire by analyzing the data that the high luminosity LHC will give us when the experiments begin. Your first goal is to study thoroughly the production of the Higgs boson, a purpose that will be viable because scientists trust the accelerator to produce 15 million of these particles a year.

But this is not all at all. Most excitingly, physicists hope the high-luminosity LHC will allow them go beyond the Standard Model, which is the theory that roughly describes the characteristics of elementary particles and the nature of the interactions that occur between them. This new physics could prove or disprove the existence of extra dimensions, the validity of supersymmetry, or whether quarks are made up of even more elementary particles. It could even help us understand the quantum nature of gravity and explain the origin of dark energy and matter.

Next stop: a new 100 TeV throttle

On June 19, 2020, the CERN management unanimously approved the construction project of a new particle accelerator circular that will have nothing less than a circumference of 100 km (the current LHC measures 27 km). Its purpose will be to go one step further in the elaboration of new physics and in the knowledge of what lies beyond the boundary of the Standard Model of what the high luminosity LHC will put in our hands.

CERN’s next circular particle accelerator will have a circumference of 100 km

The project that CERN officials have announced is divided into two stages. The first will begin, according to its initial plans, in 2038, and will require excavating a circular tunnel with a circumference of 100 km very close to the location of the current LHC. Inside that tunnel they will build an electron-positron accelerator that will have the energy necessary to maximize the production of Higgs bosons at the moment in which the collision of these particles occurs.

In addition to the accelerator itself, the scientists involved in this project will have to build a detector that manages to gather all the information they need about the particles that will be generated in each collision. The complexity of this instrument is as high, or higher if possible, than that of the particle accelerator itself, which allows us to form a fairly precise idea about the scope of this project.

Lhchaz Despite the overwhelming dimensions of the circular accelerator and the detectors, the particle beams that circulate inside it take up very little space.

The LHC has played a key role in the discovery of the Higgs boson, but the energy level with which it works is not enough to investigate the properties of this particle. It has been enough to discover it, but scientists are convinced that it is necessary to achieve higher energy levels if we want to go ahead and aspire to get to know this boson better. And, along the way, access new physics.

The first stage of the project would conclude in the middle of this century, and once that accelerator had served its purpose it would be completely dismantled to build in its place another circular accelerator capable of working at nothing less than 100 TeV (teraelectronvoltios). This energy level is monstrous; in fact, the current LHC works with an energy of 16 TeV, which allows us to get an idea of ​​how ambitious this second stage of the project is, which would last until the end of this century.

Cover image | CERN (Anna Pantelia)
Images | Julian Williams | CERN
More information | CERN | CPAN


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