Beyond Cern: Now physicists prepare to construct the even Larger Hadron Collider

The successor to the machine that found the ‘God particle’ could be up to 62 miles in circumference

Barely five years after the Large Hadron Collider began smashing atoms together in a bid to solve the mysteries of the universe, scientists are already planning to replace it with an enormous machine four times as large.

The plans, discussed by scientists at a meeting on ‘Future Circular Colliders’ in Geneva last week, would see a super collider built around the Swiss city in a tunnel 100km long. The current collider, built by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) for £6bn, started up in late 2008.

Barely a week after it became operational, several tonnes of liquid helium leaked, delaying further tests for more than a year. But it has since repaid the faith of particle physicists and last year proved the existence of the Higgs boson – the subatomic particle that gives mass to matter.

But with the Large Hadron Collider due to go out of service before 2040, there is no time to waste in planning its replacement, argued Professor Philip Burrows, senior research fellow in physics at Oxford University.

“Since the gestation time for big accelerators is a couple of decades, we need to start thinking now if we want to have a design in hand for a possible new machine to come online at Cern in the late 2030s,” he said.

Dr Rolf Heuer, the director-general of Cern, added: “We very much hope that with the LHC running at higher energy next year, we might get the first glimpse of what dark matter is. And building on that I would assume that we then can build a physics case for a future circular collider.

The new 100km Cern tunnel is one of several proposals being considered to replace the LHC, which hurls atoms against each other at virtually the speed of light.

It is by no means certain that the collider would even be in Europe, with Japan and China interested in hosting one – and scientists are also in dispute about which particles should be tested. Some experts favour colliding protons, as is done in the 27km-long LHC, citing the ability to reach far higher energies and extremes of conditions in an attempt to simulate “Big Bang”-style conditions. Others are in favour of using electrons, as they are easier to direct and the results of tests easier to interpret.

Other plans include a compact linear collider, developing new technologies for putting energy into particle beams over short distances.

The costs of creating a new collider, in a 100km tunnel, would be enormous – an estimated 10 million cubic metres of rock would need to be dug up. Cern refuses to speculate on the sums involved, but given the £6.7bn cost of the LHC, where just 1.5 million cubic metres of rock were removed, it is likely to run to tens of billions.

Scientists are due to report to Cern on what should be built in 2018. Assuming there is agreement, it would take another 15 years or so to create the new collider.

Concerns remain over the unintended consequences of cutting-edge research. Scientists and legal experts warned that plans to upgrade the world’s second most powerful particle accelerator, at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, risked the creation of micro-black holes and “strangelets” – a theoretical form of matter which could create a chain reaction to convert everything into “strange matter” and destroy the planet. But then some feared the same of the LHC, and we have survived so far.

Read more:
Working on the 'God particle' saved my life, says Peter Higgs
The Nobel Prize for Peter Higgs recognises truth in an ancient Greek idea  
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power