The largest accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), are used to probe the fundamental sub-atomic particles which govern our Universe.
There are a number of technological challenges associated with the design, construction and operation of particle accelerators which give rise to interesting opportunities for R&D. The LHC is a 27-km long circular accelerator through which particle beams less than a millimetre thick and travelling at almost the speed of light need to be steered with the precision of a few micrometers. Thousands of beam diagnostics and instrumentation devices are installed to monitor the beam, as well as several machine protection systems which need to function with maximum reliability in the event of catastrophic beam loss, preventing the equivalent of almost 80 kg of TNT from impacting the accelerator.
The LHC delivers particle collisions to the experiments every 25 nanoseconds. The four major LHC experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb) study different properties of particles resulting from these collisions. They are located in caverns 100 m underground, weigh up to 10,000 tonnes and consist of thousands of kilometers of electric cables which allow data to be read from layers of detectors at rates of several Terabytes per second. The data are then distributed to the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid for post-processing and analysis.
The members of the Platform are actively involved in a number of areas with the LHC and the ALICE experiment, which aims to recreate quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter thought to exist up to a few milliseconds after the Big Bang, reaching temperatures of 5 trillion degrees Kelvin. The ALICE experiment is composed of over 1300 scientists from 110 institutes around the world. The areas of collaboration include: