CERN has a plan to make the impossible possible. If it goes well it will overthrow the Standard Model forever
The Standard Model is the best description we have of the world of particle physics. It is so robust and perfect that, despite spending many years looking for cracks in it, physicists have not yet found them. They have found some promising signs, but this theory is so solid that remains standing. Intact. Researchers have long been aware that to develop new physics and expand our knowledge in the field of particle physics, it is essential to tear down the walls of the Standard Model.
The problem is that doing it is very difficult. So much so, in fact, that CERN itself (European Organization for Nuclear Research) describes it just as we have done in the headline of this article: It is necessary to make the impossible possible. Fortunately, the physicists at this institution have a plan. A very ambitious and extraordinarily promising one that can hold many surprises for us over the next decade. And the HL LHC (High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider or high luminosity LHC) is its undisputed protagonist.
From the high-luminosity LHC to the Future Circular Collider
If the itinerary planned by CERN continues as it has done so far, the HL LHC will be ready at the end of this decade. In 2030. And it will be capable of producing no less than 40 million collisions per second. The amount of information it will generate will be so enormous that, as the Spanish physicist Santiago Folgueras explained to us in the conversation we had with him at the beginning of December , it will be necessary to develop a system that is capable of analyzing the data in real time and making a decision regarding the collision that has just occurred.
This is precisely the purpose of the HL LHC: to drastically increase the number of collisions compared to those that have occurred in previous iterations of the LHC. Luminosity measures, in fact, how many potential collisions of particles occur per unit of surface area and time. It is measured in inverse femtobarns, so that each one of them is equivalent to 100 billion collisions between protons. Of course, these are trillions on a long scale, so an inverse femtobarn is 100 million million collisions.
Since the experiments in the accelerator began, in 2010, until the end of 2018, which was the moment when its activity ceased, 150 inverse femtobarns were produced inside. According to the current planning of CERN technicians, the modifications required by the LHC to increase its luminosity should be capable of producing 250 inverse femtobarns each year up to reach 4,000 during the entire period of activity. That’s where it is.
In any case, the most interesting thing is to remember that the improvements that CERN technicians are introducing to the LHC respond to the need to find cracks in the Standard Model with the purpose of expanding our understanding of the world of particles. Some of the questions that CERN physicists hope to answer with the help of the HL LHC are what dark matter is and what properties does it have? why neutrinos have mass and why there is no antimatter in the universe. There is no doubt that these are exciting questions.
However, the CERN physicists’ plan does not end with the HL LHC. When all its operating cycles finally conclude, this institution plans to build the FCC (Future Circular Collider), an accelerator much larger than the HL LHC and capable of reaching much higher energies. Presumably it will have a circumference of 100 km (the current LHC measures 27 km), and its construction will begin in 2038. The purpose of the CERN physicists is that the FCC is capable of reaching an energy of 100 TeV during the second stage of the project. (teraelectronvolts). To form a precise idea about what we are talking about we only have to remember that the current LHC works with an energy of 16 TeV. Faced with this perspective, it is impossible not to be excited.