When particle accelerators were invented in 1930’s, hardly could anyone have thought that these particle accelerators will lead to the investigation of one of the most complex questions the physicists’ wrestle with i.e., secrets of the beginning and working principles of the universe. Since their invention, the particle accelerators have been providing immense help in the field of particle physics and thereby widened the scope of physics by stretching the accessible region of the secrets that humans can reach to. Before unveiling the LHC or (Large Hadron Collider) and peeping into its working principles, it is important to know what the particle accelerators are since LHC itself is also a particle accelerator.
Getting to know Particle accelerators:
As the name suggests, particle accelerators speed up the particles. Although particle accelerators accelerate the particles sounds a simple phenomenon but how they do so might incite interest in anyone having a slight soul for physics. The acceleration by the particle accelerators machines is done with the combination of two fields that are, (i) a magnetic, and (ii) an electric field. The particle accelerator machine speeds up the beam of particles introduced into it and makes them excessively energetic by generating an electric field to cause super acceleration of the particles and a magnetic field at the same time to maintain the direction of the particles intact, compact and focused.
Large Hadron Collider – A brief introduction:
Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle accelerator/particle collider. The word ”Hadron” refers to highly interacting composed particles. The LHC machine accelerates and collides these hadrons and detects the matter that is formed as a resultant. This instrument was devised in between the years 1998-2008 and housed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) that is situated at the cross border of Switzerland and France. It took years to plan and initiate the work on LHC while the making of LHC was completed in almost 10 years with an approximate budget of 3.6 billion dollars. Since then this gigantic instrument is being used by thousands of physicists from more than 80 countries to study the particles in order to unveil the secrets of the universe.
The size of the world’s largest particle accelerator instrument can be imagined by the fact that it is kept 100m underground in a 24 km long tunnel which is around 3.8m wide. The size of the instrument is so large that the physicists use vehicles to travel within the tunnel for inspecting and maintaining the instrument. The reason of housing the instrument deep down into the earth is to prevent any radiations from escaping to the outer environment. 100m is an enough depth to prevent any such possibilities. There are eight elevators that are used to reach the underground institute while all the mechanism and experiments are monitored and controlled by a central control center.
The experiment for which the Large Hadron Collider was made is quite simple however it takes a whole lot of precautions to perform the experiment. The experiment goes with the similar principle of the particle accelerators. The particles (either protons or lead nuclei) are made to collide with almost the speed of light. As the Einstein’s equation suggests, E=mc2, the energy that is generated as a result of collisions will convert into matter. The matter particles formed as a result of the experiment are then detected with the help of LHC detectors. This experiment is not a one-time experiment. The mind blows away to know the number of times the experiment is repeated. It is supposed to be repeated around 600 million times per second for several years. Just like the particles are transformed into the matter as per the experiment, there are possibilities that LHC will help unravel the story of the very beginning of the universe thus answering the question of how the matter was formed as a result of the big bang. Large Hadron Collider experiment is still in process and is supposed to continue for several months/years to study the desired spheres of particle physics.
LHC- Exploring components:
A brief detail of the components of the LHC is hereunder:
- The Beam Pipe:
The beam pipes consist of two pipes where the particles (protons or lead nuclei) are introduced in opposite directions (one direction in one pipe).
- Accelerating structure:
The part of the Large Hadron collider where the particles are accelerated by the means of the electric field. The accelerating structures are also called accelerating cavities. Every single time the particle move through the cavities, a very strong electric field accelerates them by 5mv/minute. Just after 20 minutes, they are accelerated to their highest potential.
- Magnetic Field:
The third most important component of any particle accelerator is the magnetic field. While the energy of the particles has been raised, it is more difficult to keep their direction circulatory within the pipe. In order to provide a circular path, the gigantic magnets around the pipe work as deflectors. Note that the magnets in the LHC are not normal magnets. They are specially made as per the peculiar requirements of the particle accelerator machine.
There are four detectors in the large hadron collider.
- A Toroidal LHC Apparatus called ATLAS is used to detect momentum and energy of the particles.
- Compact Muon Solenoid or the commonly known CMS is another detector of the LHC. Like ATLAS it’s primary function also is to detect and analyze the sub-particles, to look for Higgs Bosons and find clues to the nature of dark matter.
- The third detector is the Large Ion Collider Experiment called ALICE, the purpose of which is to study the ions of iron. Alice studies a liquid that is considered to have existed after the big bang.
- (The fourth and the last detector is the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) the purpose of which is to study the antimatter.
Large Hadron Collider: How it works
Let us now study the full working of the Large Hadron Collider in detail step by step:
- Introducing beam particles in the device:
The very first step involves the introduction of the beam particle into the liner from a hydrogen bottle. Since hydrogen contains one proton and one electron, the electron is removed with an electric discharge. The beam of protons is then projected to the fields in the collider i.e the electric and magnetic field. Large Hadron Collider requires around 300 trillion particles and the device is only refilled twice a day. Interestingly the hydrogen bottle via which the hydrogen atoms are introduced into the LHC looks insignificant, almost the size of a long gas cylinder but the same insignificant bottle causes the world’s largest particle accelerator machine to operate making it the most important experiment of the millennium or probably the most important scientific experiment ever.
- Once the electrons are stripped off, there remain the protons. The positively charged protons are then enabled to travel into the initial part of the collider which is the linear2. An electric field help accelerates the protons. The excessively energetic protons travel the liner2 and by the time they leave the linear, they’re traveling almost one-third the speed of light.
- The beam particles then enter the boosters where they’re spread into four different circular rings. To accelerate the packets, even more, they’re continuously circulated under an electromagnetic field consequently, raising the speed of particle to almost 91.6% of the speed of light.
- The highly accelerated particles are then recombined into a Proton Synchrotron which is 628m in circumference. Here the particles circulate for 1.2 seconds and reach almost 99.9% of the speed of light. It is this point that the protons cannot raise their speed any further. Instead, they add energy to the mass of the protons. As a result, the protons become 25 times heavier than the rest.
- From the protons synchrotron, the beam of protons enters a huge ring of Super Proton Synchrotron which is almost 7km in circumference. Here the energy of the particle is raised to 450 GeV.
- Completing the process in the Super Proton Synchrotron, the beams are then made to enter the gigantic orbit of the Large Hadron Collider LHC. The LHC orbit has a circumference of 27 km. The two vacuum pipes in the LHC circulate protons beams in opposite directions. The counter-rotating beams cross over the four detector covers where the collisions take place. During the collisions in the LHC, more amount of energy is added into the protons bringing their velocity very close to the speed of light. With almost as fast as the speed of light the proton packets circulate in the 27 km tubes nearly 11000 times in a second.
- When every proton reaches a total energy of 7 tera-electron volts they are steered by the strong super magnets and made to collide at the crossovers. These collisions cause the similar states to occur as it possibly occurred as a result of the great big bang.
- While the collision takes place at the crossovers of the two vacuum pipes where the detectors are attached, the effects of the collisions are studied using computers attached to the detectors. And the rest of the calculations are made with the help of brain and computers.
Large Hadron Collider, the conspiracies and the answers:
Although LHC is a scientific experiment, it has widely been conspired about by all types and kinds of people. The scientists were accused of trying to build black holes with LHC to swallow Earth, creating antimatter bombs to target the Vatican, inventing satanic return gates etc. while some others conspired that the reason is ”Unknown”. By now none of the conspiracies have turned out to be true. The physicists, however, give reasons of the LHC experiment that sound promising. Here is a brief note to that;
In order to answer the questions regarding the inception of the universe, it’s working and what might be its future, physicists proposed a theory which is known as the Standard model of particle physics however, today physicists say that the standard model of the particle physics is incomplete as it contains mathematical inconsistencies, different mass scales, and parameters and does not address gravity effects etc. In order to make progress to make the model of particle physics better, it is inevitable to invent new types of machinery that can study the particle better than the previous models of devices. This seems the only way to progress and reach new milestones.
With regards to the conspiracies like producing black hole to swallow Earth or calling satanic powers, the physicists negate all such possibilities. The black hole possibility has been answered in the statements that assure the black holes that might be created as a result of the experiment will be vulnerable enough to decay quickly causing no harm to the Earth.
LHC – Past and the latest updates-An overview:
LHC was completed in the 2008 and soon after that a test run of LHC took place which was successful. The same year due to some equipment problems the experiment was interrupted. During the 2009-2013 first operational run of the LHC took place after which it was shut down for maintenance and upgrade between 2013-2015. The second operational run started in 2015 which is still in progress. During these operational runs, physicists have been able to collect very useful information that is supposed to abet further into the processes of unveiling the secrets of the universe.
The main purpose of the LHC that the physicist suggests is to unravel the marvelous secrets of the making and working of the Universe. Although the LHC is still in progress, nothing can be said for sure what might be the consequences of this great experiment that is undertaken with the help of world’s largest particle collider/accelerator. There is also need to remove the doubts among the common public regarding the Large Hadron Collider and its experiment. The universe is a great mystery. Even after decades of tireless efforts, physicists have not yet successfully achieved their goals but they say, where there is a wish there is a way. Large Hadron Collider apart from being the world’s largest particle collider may also become the world’s first device to make the universe’s most important secrets known. Finger are nonetheless crossed.