CERN unveils plan to dwarf Large Hadron Collider with even bigger machine

16 Jan 2019

Concept shot of what the Future Circular Collider interior will look like. Image: CERN

CERN’s famous Large Hadron Collider spanning two countries is only the beginning, with new plans for an even larger system.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN remains a Mecca of particle physics, having most famously discovered the Higgs boson, otherwise known as the ‘God particle’, in 2012.

The 27km-long LHC will inevitably not be around forever, though it is expected to last until at least 2035. Now, CERN has revealed incredible plans of an enormous replacement that will dwarf the massive LHC.

The conceptual design of the Future Circular Collider (FCC) has been released four years after an initial study proposed the idea, with expectations for it to be used to provide electron-positron, proton-proton and ion-ion collisions at unprecedented energies and intensities, with the possibility of electron-proton and electron-ion collisions.

In terms of scale, the FCC would be almost four times the length of the LHC at 100km, comprising a superconducting proton accelerator ring at an order of magnitude many times more powerful than its predecessor.

The ring alone is expected to cost somewhere in the region of €9bn, including the €5bn it would cost to build the 100km tunnel. The cost estimate for a superconducting proton machine that would afterwards use the same tunnel is around €15bn.

Operating by 2050

Once activated, the FCC’s lifespan will be between 15 and 20 years. Expectations are that the physics programme could get underway by 2040, just as the LHC reaches the end of its high-luminosity period, whereby the number of collisions would be increased from where it is today. Then, in 2050, the machine could begin operation.

Reaching energies of 100 teraelectronvolts and beyond would allow precise studies of how a Higgs particle interacts with another Higgs particle, with thorough exploration of the role of the electroweak-symmetry breaking in the history of our universe.

“The FCC timeline foresees starting with an electron-positron machine, just as the Large Electron-Positron collider preceded the LHC,” said CERN director for accelerators and technology, Frédérick Bordry. “This would enable a rich programme to benefit the particle physics community throughout the 21st century.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic