Finance and Business

CERN's Proposed €20bn Future Circular Collider

CERN, the home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is making plans for a significant advancement – the Future Circular Collider (FCC). This proposed machine is expected to be at least three times larger than its predecessor, the LHC, and aims to delve deeper into the fundamental aspects of the universe.

The Evolution from the Large Hadron Collider

Nestled beneath the Swiss-French countryside, the LHC, a 27km circular tunnel, has been a key player in the study of particle physics. By colliding protons and subatomic particles at high speeds, it recreates conditions akin to the early moments after the big bang. In 2012, the LHC's notable achievement was the discovery of the Higgs boson, a breakthrough that earned the Nobel Prize in Physics.

However, post the Higgs boson discovery, the LHC hasn't provided substantial new insights into physics, leaving questions about dark matter, dark energy, and the essential nature of our reality unanswered.

Future Circular Collider (FCC)

Proposed in 2019, the FCC is an ambitious initiative with an estimated cost of €20bn. Envisaged to have a circumference of 90-100km – a significant expansion from the LHC's 27km – the FCC plans to collide subatomic particles at a maximum energy of 100 teraelectronvolts (TeV), surpassing the LHC's 14TeV capability.

Despite these plans, the FCC faces scrutiny, notably from Sir David King, the UK's former chief scientific adviser, who has voiced concerns about the substantial investment in the midst of global challenges such as the climate crisis.

CERN's Future Plans

Recent discussions at the CERN council revolved around a midterm review of the FCC's feasibility study. If the plans proceed, CERN aims to seek approval within the next five years, with hopes to make the FCC operational in the 2040s, following the conclusion of the LHC's operations.

Professor Fabiola Gianotti, CERN's director general, envisions the FCC as a tool to study nature's laws at the smallest scales and highest energies. The primary goal is to address fundamental questions in contemporary physics and deepen our understanding of the universe.

Perspectives from the Scientific Community

Tara Shears, a physics professor at the University of Liverpool and an LHCb experiment member, expresses optimism about the FCC's potential. She sees it as a next-generation machine with the ability to unravel finer details about the universe, particularly concerning the Higgs and Higgs field, along with exploring dark matter and testing new physics ideas.

On the other hand, Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy remains critical of the FCC proposals. She asserts that there is no evidence suggesting it would reveal anything about dark matter or dark energy. According to her, the most likely outcome would be improved measurements of constants in the standard model.

A Continued Journey into the Unknown

Professor Jon Butterworth, a member of the Atlas experiment at the LHC, emphasises that the collider is a work in progress. He believes it is about extending the frontier of human knowledge into the heart of matter and fundamental forces, seeking to unravel their true nature.

As discussions and debates unfold, the destiny of the Future Circular Collider remains uncertain. Whether it will mark a step forward in our understanding of the universe or become a significant investment in pursuit of answers, only time will reveal. Particle physicists continue their quest, navigating the complexities of the cosmos and striving to unlock the secrets that lie beyond the reach of our current knowledge.