CERN Plans Enormous €20 Billion Successor to the Large Hadron Collider

The proposed circular tunnel would dwarf the Large Hadron Collider in size and power.

CERN Plans Enormous €20 Billion Successor to the Large Hadron Collider
A concept image of the Future Circular Collider (FCC)CERN

CERN scientists have been planning what comes next after the Large Hadron Collider, and it seems their choice is based on the philosophy that bigger means better.

CERN's council announced its backing today, after a formal vote, for a proposed new collider with a 100km circular, four times the size and six times as powerful as the LHC, Nature reports.


A larger Large Hadron Collider

The proposed machine, referred to as the Future Circular Collider (FCC), would allow scientists to hunt for particles and other new phenomena at even higher energies. It would also allow them to study the Higgs boson with greater precision, and might offer valuable insight into dark matter.

CERN Plans Enormous €20 Billion Successor to the Large Hadron Collider
Artist's impression of the FCC accelerator and tunnel, Source: Polar Media/CERN

“It’s probing nature at the shortest distances and looking for the smallest things we can see … it’s a real exploratory mission,” Prof. Jon Butterworth, of University College London said while speaking at CERN's council meeting. “Everyone agrees that’s what we need to do. The question has been: what’s the best machine to do it?”

CERN, Europe’s preeminent particle-physics organization, will need global help to fund the project, which is expected to cost an eyewatering €21 billion

A two-stage plan

The organization's plan is outlined in a document, titled 'European Strategy for Particle Physics Update', which was published today on its website. 

Firstly, CERN would build an electron-positron collider with collision energies tuned to maximize the production of Higgs bosons to allow researchers to study their properties in immense detail.

CERN Plans Enormous €20 Billion Successor to the Large Hadron Collider
The current ring of the LHC (27km) compared to the proposed new 100km FCC tunnel, Source: CERN

Later in the century, the first machine would be dismantled and replaced by a proton-proton smasher. This machine would reach collision energies of 100 teraelectronvolts (TeV), compared with the 16 TeV of the LHC, which also collides protons and has iconic status as the most powerful accelerator in the world.

Much of the technology that this second machine will require is yet to be developed, which makes €21bn price tag all the more impressive.

If financial backing is secured, construction could begin in a decade and the huge machine would take 10 years to build, The Guardian reports. This means it would not be operational until the 2040s.

The LHC is currently is undergoing upgrades and is due to restart in May 2021 and run until the end of 2024. Its final run is expected to begin at the end of 2027.

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