An international collaboration of scientists has started the many decades' worth of work to build a worthy successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Over 500 scientists met in Berlin to discuss the plans that will bring the future particle accelerator to life.
The event was organized by the Future Circular Collider (FCC) Study. It's currently expected to be seven times more powerful than the LHC, and the accelerator itself could be between 80 and 100 kilometers (50 and 62 miles) long – that’s almost four times longer than the LHC.
The project is extremely ambitious. This is not just a question of scaling up what we currently have. The technology that this project requires is either brand new or still in its infancy. That said, it took 30 years to turn the LHC from a paper dream into a reality, so researchers have to start early. The EuroCirCol group is currently looking into the technical details.
The FCC will deliver collisions between particles at an incredible energy, which will allow us to hopefully answer some of the most elusive mysteries of the universe. Dark matter has a lot of astronomical evidence for example, but we don’t seem to find any particles that can explain it.
"When you look into things like the movement of galaxies, we see that we can only understand and explain about 5 percent of what we observe," Professor Michael Benedikt, leader of the FCC and project coordinator for the EuroCirCol, told Horizon. "But with questions like the so-called problem of dark matter, which is linked to the fact that galaxies and stars are not moving as you would expect them to, the only explanation we have is that there must be matter we do not see which distorts the movement accordingly."
Building the new accelerator will require international collaboration and funds. For people who think that answering the fundamental questions about the nature of reality is a waste of money, it is important to remember that the construction of such a complex experiment comes with a huge technological benefit for humanity.
"The beauty of physics is that we have these two strands," said Professor Carsten Welsch, who is also the communications coordinator for EuroCirCol. "On the one hand it's asking those very fundamental questions, but on the other hand, it's not forgetting that there is almost always a direct link to applications that benefit society immediately."
Technology like the World Wide Web and cancer-treating hadron therapy were developed during the construction of the LHC. Magnets for better MRI scans could be a likely application of the new collider. The conceptual designs for the collider are expected to be delivered before the end of 2018.