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Big questions The low-down on a high-energy atom smasher

It's the future. It's circular, It's a collider. A giant particle accelerator, set to be built at the Geneva-based particle physics research centre, CERN, will be almost four times longer and ten times more powerful than the centre’s present atom smasher. 

The plan is for the Future Circular Colliderexternal link, with its circumference of 100 kilometres (62 miles), to unlock even more secrets of matter and the universe in the coming decades. Part of the tunnel for the electron-positron collider would be built under Lake Geneva and the machine could start operating in 2040. It would sit next to the current 27-kilometre Large Hadron Colliderexternal link (LHC), which is perhaps best known for helping confirm the subatomic Higgs boson in 2012.

Pricey project

The collider project, cooked up by a research consortium of over 1,000 scientists, would cost an estimated CHF9 billion ($9 billion). The plans have been submitted to an international panel of particle physicists, who are preparing a new European particle physics strategy for publication in 2020.

A second phase would involve putting a superconducting proton machine in the same tunnel, at am additional cost of about CHF15 billion. That could start operation in the late 2050s.


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