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Phase One Complete for New-Generation Particle Accelerator

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Jun 14, 2013 12:56 PM EDT
International Linear Collider
The blueprint for the International Linear Collider is done. Next up? Picking a country for the machine many hope will offer new insight into the Higgs boson and dark matter. (Photo : Linear Collider Collaboration Newsline)

In three consecutive ceremonies across multiple continents, scientists celebrated the publication of a long-awaited report detailing the construction plans for the International Linear Collider (ILC), a next-generation particle collider designed to herald in a new age of physics research beyond that currently possibly at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

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Now in the hands of an international oversight board (ICFA), the event, which started in Tokyo, then took place at the CERN facility in Geneva and finished at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, consisted of symposia and ceremonies including virtual handshakes via videoconference taking place.

According to Barry Barish, Director of the ILC’s Global Design Effort, the completion of the report represents the end of the design phase.

“The technology is there, the R&D milestones have been achieved, the physics case is clear, and we could start construction tomorrow,” he said.

Highlights of achievements that went into that first round include the successful construction and commissioning of superconducting radiofrequencey test facilities for accelerators all over the world, strides in the improvement of accelerating cavities production processes and plans for mass production, which is especially important given the 16,000 needed in order to drive the ILC’s particle beams.

As far as construction goes, those behind the project say that there are strong signs coming from Japan that it could bid to host the project.

In all, the ILC has brought together more than 1,000 scientists and engineers from more than 100 universities and laboratories in over two dozen countries.

Once complete, it will consist of two linear accelerators facing each that will allow for the acceleration and collision of electrons and their anti-particles, positrons.

Superconducting accelerator cavities operating at temperatures of near absolute zero will offer more and more energy to the particles until they collide in the detectors at the center of the nearly 20-mile-long machine.

At the height of operation, bunches of electrons and positrons will collide roughly 7,000 times per second at a total collision energy of 500 GeV. As this happens, they will create a surge of new particles tracked and registered in the ILC’s detectors with each bunch containing 20 billion electrons or positrons concentrated into an area far smaller than that of a human hair.

This in turn, when combined with the very precise interaction of two point-like colliding particles that annihilate each other, will offer scientists a new wealth of data. including the exact measurement of particles such as the Higgs boson and, if they’re lucky, maybe even new details on the ever-elusive dark matter.

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