10 Mind-Blowing Facts about the LHC That You Will Never Know

Prepare to be amazed as we reveal ten jaw-dropping facts about the Large Hadron Collider (the LHC). Wait for the last one.

LHC Length

When the 27-km long circular tunnel was excavated between the lake of Geneva and the Jura mountain range, the two ends of the tunnel met up to within 1 cm. The LHC re-uses the 27-km circumference tunnel that was built for the previous accelerator called LEP. The tunnel was built at an average depth of 100 m, due to geological considerations (translated into cost) and with a slight slope of 1.4%. Its depth varies between 175 m (under the Jura) and 50 m (towards the Lake of Geneva).

Superconductors

From 6,000 to 9,000 filaments of superconducting niobium-titanium are used in the construction of LHC cables. Remarkably, each filament is only 0.007 mm thick, making it approximately 10 times thinner than typical human hair. If these filaments were lined up end to end, they would span a distance from the Earth to the Sun and back six times, with plenty left over for around 150 trips to the Moon.

Superconductors play a crucial role in the LHC, as they are essential for the construction of the 9,600 magnets installed within the accelerator. Each type of magnet serves to optimize the trajectory of particles and counteract the influence of tidal forces. Interestingly, not widely known is the fact that the Earth’s crust in Geneva rises by approximately 25 cm due to these “ground tides,” resulting in a variation of 1 mm in the LHC’s circumference.

This, in turn, leads to significant changes in beam energy and trajectory.

Acceleration of the Large Hadron Collider

The protons accelerated at CERN are obtained from standard hydrogen. Although proton beams at the LHC are very intense (each bunch containing 1.15×10^11 protons in a beam size of 3.5 micrometres), only 2 nanograms of hydrogen are accelerated each day. Therefore, it would take about 1 million years to accelerate 1 gram of hydrogen.

Cold

The Large Hadron Collider, located at CERN, operates at an incredibly chilly temperature of -271.3 degrees Celsius, just 1.9 degrees above absolute zero. This frigid environment is achieved using over 120 tons of liquid helium, making the LHC the coldest place on Earth. To put this extreme cold into perspective, it is colder than outer space. Such low temperatures are necessary to maintain the superconducting state of the LHC’s powerful magnets, enabling particles to accelerate to near-light speeds and collide with unparalleled energy, unraveling the mysteries of the universe.

Hot

While the LHC requires extremely cold temperatures, the temperatures it generates during particle collisions can reach extraordinary levels. During these collisions, happening 40 million times per second, temperatures in the LHC can soar to an astonishing 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the Sun. At such extreme heat, the particles briefly exist in a state known as quark-gluon plasma, where protons and neutrons melt into a soup-like mixture of quarks and gluons. This scorching environment allows scientists to study the fundamental properties of matter and recreate the conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang.

Vacuum

Inside the Large Hadron Collider, a remarkable feat of engineering creates an environment of near-perfect vacuum. The vacuum level achieved is one trillion times lower than atmospheric pressure, equivalent to the vacuum of outer space. To maintain this ultrahigh vacuum vacuum chambers are used, ensuring that particles can travel without interference or interaction with any residual gas molecules. This exceptional vacuum level is crucial for preserving the integrity of the particle beams, allowing them to circulate freely and collide with precision. It is within this nearly empty space that scientists explore the fundamental secrets of the universe.

the LHC

Speed inside the Large Hadron Collider

Protons in the LHC travel at 0.999999991 times the speed of light (when the LHC operates at the design energy). Each proton goes around the 27 km ring more than 11.000 times a second. A beam might circulate for more than 10 hours, travelling more than 10 billion kilometres, enough to get to Neptune and back again. The particles are so tiny that the task of making them collide is like firing two needles 10 kilometres apart with such precision that they meet halfway.

Energy of the Large Hadron Collider

At full energy, each of the two proton beams in the LHC has a total energy equivalent to a 400 tons train (like the French TGV) travelling at 150 km/h.

This is enough energy to melt 500 kg of copper. However, in absolute terms, these energies are not impressive if compared to the energies we deal with every day. 1 TeV is about the kinetic energy of a flying mosquito.

What makes the LHC so extraordinary is the capability to squeeze that energy into a space about a million million times smaller than that mosquito.

Data

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN generates an astounding amount of data as it collides particles at unprecedented energies. Each second, the LHC produces a mind-boggling 40 million collisions, resulting in an enormous data flow. To put it into perspective, the amount of data generated by the LHC in just one year is equivalent to around 25 petabytes, which is equivalent to 25 million gigabytes or approximately 1.5 million HD movies. Processing and analyzing this vast amount of data requires cutting-edge computing infrastructure and sophisticated algorithms, enabling scientists to extract valuable insights and make groundbreaking discoveries about the fundamental nature of our universe.

The Large Car Collider

The big roundabout next to CERN’s main entrance has a very familiar name: the Large Car Collider.

The Large Car Collider

Funny are also the comments.

  • Always an exciting time. Look out for cars from all over Europe failing to indicate where they want to go. Happily, there is a medical centre nearby for overly adventurous cyclists.
  • Cool car collisions happen once in a while here, worth visiting.
  • I must admit that this is one of the greatest colliders I’ve ever visited. It provides endless opportunities to collide with all kinds of vehicles, and all is for free. (Except for the repair costs.)
  • Didnt, have to wait long for a crash. Tyres punctured and happy little spinny spins, a better attraction than Disneyland!
  • Thanks to this place, I’ve found new reasons to need to replace bits of my car. Now it’s nearly all new!
  • Went there several times and never saw a single car crash. I would put 0 stars if it was possible. Response from the owner: Sorry for your bad experience Next time, try to access the collider faster and with your eyes closed
  • Omg, the cars are whizzing past me at almost relativistic speeds!
  • Really gets your heart pumping, with a slightly terrifying Poisson distribution
  • The Large Car Collider is a state-of-the-art research facility for studying high-energy car-car collisions. Unlike the neighbouring Large Hadron Collider, the LCC is very easy to visit in person, and you can watch it operate at peak luminosity every weekday around 8-9am and 5-6pm. Moreover, the LCC gives members of the public a unique chance to participate in the scientific process: Simply drive through the roundabout during commuting hours, and just like that, you’ll help deepen humanity’s knowledge of road rage, traffic jams, and fender-benders. A must-see!

Shocking right? Write down your comment, and do not forget to share the post with your LHC’s lovers’ friends.

Quantum Soul
Quantum Soul

Science evangelist, Art lover

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