The Large Hadron Collider is a titanic endeavour for Science and Technology alike.
State-of-the-art technologies had to be pushed further than ever to meet the accelerator's specifications and demands. Impressive developments have been achieved in a vast range of fields: superconductors, electronics, ultra-high vacuum, cryogenics, information technology, materials science, nanotechnology, and civil engineering. The transfer of knowledge to our society has already begun and will have a growing impact in strategic sectors such as medicine, the environment, microelectronics, computers and telecommunication networks.
Facts and Figures:
The LHC is housed in an underground circular tunnel that runs for 27 km at a depth of about 100 m. At maximum power, protons will be accelerated to almost the speed of light, racing around the ring 11,245 times per second.
Proton beams circulating in the LHC are actually made by 3000 "packets" of 100 billion particles each. The packets collide 30 millions times a second, producing about 600 proton-proton collisions each second.
Each proton beam will circulate for about 10 hours, covering a distance equivalent to a trip from the Earth to the planet Neptune and back (more than 10 billion kilometres).
Proton collisions will occur with an energy level of 14 tera-electronvolts, 10,000 billion times greater than the energy of photons emitted by a light bulb.
Particles travel inside an ultra-high vacuum beam pipe - a cavity as empty as interplanetary space.
The protons are steered along the LHC ring by 9300 super-conducting magnets, cooled at a temperature close to absolute zero: -271.3°C (1.9 K), which makes the LHC the coldest place in the Universe. The magnet elements line up in the tunnel for a length of 24.5 km and weight a grand total of more than 40,000 tons.
The magnetic field generated by the strongest magnets (dipoles) reaches a value of 8 Tesla, about 200,000 times greater than the Earth's magnetic field.
A beam collimator system ensures extraordinary system efficiency, as no more than 2 particles out of every 10,000 escape from the beams.
The LHC proton beam has a luminosity, i.e. an intensity, of 1034 (10 million billion billion billion particles) per square centimetre per second.
The data recorded by each of the big experiments at the LHC will fill about 100,000 dual-layer DVDs every year. A distributing computing network called the Grid is being deployed to ensure access to the data for the thousands of scientists involved scattered around the globe.
The LHC is also breaking a sociological record thanks to the sizeable participation of female scientists from all over the world. Time has certainly passed since 1955, when physicists working at the CERN PS (Proton Synchrotron) accelerator named the first magnet after the only lady in the group!
Today, an ever-growing number of female scientists, often at a young age, are achieving important results as they play key roles in big collaborations and obtain International recognition. Such scientists include a large number of Italian women.