lundi 10 juillet 2017

Accelerating particles - but not just for the LHC

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

July 10, 2017

Image above: Distribution of protons delivered by the accelerator chain to the different installations. (Image: Daniel Dominguez/CERN).

This week, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was in technical stop, but particles continued to circulate in the other accelerators. This is because the chain of four injectors that feed the LHC also supplies particles to myriad experiments across several experimental areas.

In fact, even when the LHC is running, the other experimental areas consume almost all the particles, as the diagram shows. The large collider uses less than 0.1% of the protons prepared by the injector chain. That’s primarily because the LHC is a storage ring: the same beams circulate in the ring for hours at a time, producing collisions with every circuit they complete. That’s not the case for CERN’s other machines, which send beams to fixed targets – an operation that has to be repeated every time data is taken.

All the protons start their journey in the linear accelerator Linac2, before being launched at a third of the speed of light into the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB). At that point, their paths diverge.

Image above: The journey of protons begins in the linear accelerator Linac 2, where they are boosted to one third of the speed of light.(Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN).

More than half of the protons are sent to ISOLDE, a nuclear physics research facility. ISOLDE supplies various experimental areas hosting numerous experiments each year in fields ranging from fundamental physics to materials sciences and the production of isotopes for medical applications. Last year, ISOLDE supplied particles to 46 experiments.

The remainder of the particles leaving the PS Booster go to the Proton Synchrotron (PS), which supplies three other experimental areas: the Antiproton Decelerator (AD), used for antimatter experiments, the East Area, which notably is home to the CLOUD experiment dedicated to studying the formation of clouds, and finally n_TOF, another nuclear physics facility.

Image above: Miniball, one of the experimental set-ups of the nuclear research facility ISOLDE. The Isotope Mass Separator On-Line facility (ISOLDE) uses more than a half of the protons prepared in the CERN accelerator complex to carry out numerous experiments in fields ranging from fundamental physics to materials sciences and the production of isotopes for medical applications. (Image: Julien Ordan / CERN).

The PS sends a small portion of its protons to the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), which in turn sends most of them to the North Area, where several fixed-target experiments including COMPASS and NA62 take data. Thus, in the end, the LHC receives only a tiny proportion of the particles that started the journey.

In 2016, CERN’s accelerator complex accelerated 134 billion billion protons (1.34 x 1020). This number corresponds to a minuscule quantity of matter, roughly equivalent to the number of protons in a grain of sand, but protons are so small that this amount is enough to supply all the experiments.

Image above: The Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) is the last link in the accelerators chain before the LHC. It also feeds the North Area where a test hall for future equipment is located and where several experiments take data. (Image: Piotr Traczyk/CERN).

The LHC will resume operation tonight. After a week-end of tuning, the LHC physics programme should restart on Monday.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):


Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB):


Proton Synchrotron (PS):

Antiproton Decelerator (AD):

CLOUD experiment:


Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS):



For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Corinne Pralavorio.

Best regards,

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