China has announced it will build the largest super particle collider by 2028. The world was amazed at the development of the Large Hadron Collider built at CERN in 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland but that particle collider will be considered small after China builds the super particle collider it has planned.
China has been quietly paving the way for the creation of this super particle accelerator and if it is successful will become a leading country in particle physics, overtaking Europe and the U.S. as leaders in physics. Scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing are working with physicists from around the world to build this “Higgs boson factory” by 2028.
The Higgs boson is an atomic particle that has been of great interest in high energy physics and was discovered at CERN on July 4, 2012. After 48 years of speculation, the experiment at CERN final proved that the Higgs boson particle existed. This was cause for great celebration in the physics community and has been thought of by some as the end of an era. However, as usually happens in the world of science, the inquiries never end and when one door closes another door opens.
The current Large Hadron Collider at CERN has been called a “sledgehammer” in particle physics in that the protons are smashed together at high energies to observe what emerges. The planned super particle collider in China will use lower energy and these types of electron-positron colliders are expected to produce cleaner collisions that offer easier analysis. The proposed Chinese collider is expected to be able to discern whether the Higgs boson is a simple particle or something more complex. All of these experiments in particle physics that are carried out with super particle colliders are tests of predictions made by the Standard Model of particle physics.
The Standard Model in physics is a model of how fundamental particles governed by four fundamental forces make up the matter of the universe. Examples of fundamental particles are quarks and leptons and the four forces in the universe are called the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force. The Standard Model was developed in the 1970s and it has been successfully used to predict many phenomena in physics. The Standard Model is thought to be a well-tested theory in physics.
The proposed super particle collider is estimated to cost $3 billion. Considering the size of the Chinese economy, this amount of money does not seem very large. The United States had a plan to build this type of very large particle collider in the 1990s in Texas but Congress cancelled the project after questioning its utility. The cancellation of the project happened after $2 billion had already been spent.
The new particle collider to be built in China will include a 52 kilometer underground ring that would allow electrons and positrons to be smashed together. A next stage in the development of super particle colliders is already planned and the next generation of particle colliders will be a super proton-proton collider, which can make use of the same tunnel system. The announcement that China will build the largest super particle collider will certainly stir up a lot of interest in the physics community in the coming years.
By Margaret Lutze