PORTLAND, Ore.The world's most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), will attempt to form its first particle beam on Wednesday, Sept. 10th, enabled by EEs who designed its superconducting magnets, detectors and worldwide grid computing network.
The LHC was constructed at the CERN (Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire or European Council for Nuclear Research, Geneva). View a live webcast of the event at 4 a.m. Eastern Time Sept. 10, at: http://webcast.cern.ch/.
The LHC consists of a 16-mile long ring of superconducting magnets--1232 dipole magnets each 49 feet long which are used to bend the beams, and 392 quadrupole magnets, each 16-to-22 feet long, to focus the particle beams--cooled with 60 tons of liquid helium to -456 degree Fahrenheit.
Trillions of protons accelerate around the ring 11,245 times a second to achieve 99.99 percent the speed of light, resulting in 600 million collisions per second. Two beams of protons traveling opposite directions will each achieve an energy of 7 TeV (tera-electronvolts), resulting to head-to-head collisions of 14 TeV--seven times greater than the most power accelerator today at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Batavia, Ill.)
Many experiments will be performed by the LHC that plumb the mysteries of the universe by recreating the conditions of the Big Bang--producing subatomic particles that have not been seen since the beginning of time itself. Mysteries that the LHC will hopefully resolve include the origin of matter and mass, the existence of extra dimensions, and the whereabouts of dark matter and dark energy, which are estimated to compose 96 percent of the universe, but which are invisible to physics today. The LHC will also attempt to create microscopic black holes--an experiment that doomsayers predict will swallow the Earth, but which scientists at CERN say are created naturally all the time when cosmic rays hit the atmosphere, but which can now be studied by detectors in the LHC.
Throughout the construction of the detectors installed there in the LHC, electrical engineers have been instrumental to its success, according to University of Nebraska at Lincolm professor Ken Bloom.
"EEs have helped us design a general purpose detector that could capture whatever the new physics could be," said Bloom. "And there is electrical engineering throughout the whole experiment--from its ultra-low noise amplifiers to its realtime computing systems."
One of the most important experiments to be performed by the LHC depends on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector which is built around a huge solenoid magnet with a 12,500 ton yoke and using a cylindrical coil of superconducting cable that generates a magnetic field of 4 teslas--100,000 times that of the Earth's magnetic field.
"The CMS experiment is one of the two big general purpose experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider," said Bloom. "Our goal is to discover and explore new physical phenomena that we expect to observe in these high-energy particle collisions. There may even be extra dimensions of space besides the three that we are used to."