On March 25, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, turned the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) turned back on. This time, the process promises to yield six times as much data as it did in 2015. The LHC is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world; it’s about 27 km (16.7) long and has achieved a total collision energy of 13 TeV-a world record. The Higgs Boson, discovered, in 2012, has already made quite a name for itself. But how does it actually work?
ATLAS ( A TOROIDAL LHC APPARATUS)
ATLAS is a general-purpose detector that explores physics with a wide net, searching for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and even dark matter. It’s the largest particle detector ever built,at 46 m long, with a volume of 28,750 cubic meters.
CMS (COMPACT MUON SOLENOID)
CMS is another general-purpose detector whose purpose, similar to ATLAS, is to detect and measure sub-particles released during collisions, including the Higgs boson. It is built around a massive solenoid magnet that generates a magnetic field 100,000x stronger than the Earth’s.
ALICE (A LARGE ION COLLIDER EXPERT)
ALICE is a heavy-ion detector that’s designed to study “quark-gluon plasma” a form of matter that exists at extreme energy densities and is believed to have formed during the Universe’s earliest years. Scientists use ALICE to recreate conditions similar to those that occurred just after the big bang.
LHCB (LARGE HADRON COLLIDER BEAUTY)
The LHCb experiment seeks to understand why matter predominated over antimatter in the early universe by studying the so-called “beauty” or “b” quark. The detector moves precisely, allowing for notoriously unstable and decayingbeauty quark particles.
HOW THE LHC WORKS
STEP ONE: ACCELERATION
The experiment begins when two proton beams travel through an ultrahigh vacuum, guided by superconducting magnets chilled to -271.3 C (-456.3 F). The protons make 11,245 circuits per second at 99.9% the speed of light.
STEP TWO: COLLISION
Next, the beams cross in four main detectors, generating nearly one billion particle collisions per second, and 13 Tera electron volts of energy. The resulting energy density is comparable to the conditions that occurred moments after the big bang.
STEP THREE: CREATION
Einstein’s famous formula, E=mc2, shows how the energy of the proton collisions is converted into new matter. This includes the top quark, the most massive subatomic particle ever detected. These unstable particles form rapidly into new ones.
STEP FOUR: DETECTION
Lastly, the LHC’s four detectors measure secondary particles generated during collisions as they zoom away. The detectors calculate spatial position, energy, momentum, mass and charge to determine a particle’s identity.