- The Geneva, Switzerland-based European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which is home to the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator, has initiated its plan to develop a new accelerator called the Future Circular Collider. It will cost 20B euros ($21.5B), be three times the size of the LHC, and have a 91km (56 miles) circumference.1
- The current price tag, which is only for initial construction costs, will be funded by CERN member states, such as the UK. The plan is for it to be built in two stages, the first of which is expected to begin in the 2040s to collide electrons. The second phase, which will collide heavier protons is projected to begin in the 2070s, though it will require more powerful magnets that have not yet been invented.2
- The Large Hadron Collider, which began accelerating subatomic particles at nearly light speed in 2008, achieved its first high-energy particle collision in 2010, thus discovering the Higgs boson particle, also dubbed the 'God particle.' While this has enabled scientists to better understand where matter gets its mass from, researchers are still trying to learn about other parts of the universe, such as dark matter and dark energy.3
- Before any construction begins, a feasibility study for the Future Circular Collider will be completed by 2025, with the member states voting on whether to go through with the project three years later — if approved, construction will begin in 2028. The first phase, which would consist of smashing more light particles, would further investigate the Higgs boson.4
- Then, by the 2070s, the goal is for the next-generation, heavy-duty Future Circular Collider to begin smashing protons, with an energy target of 100T electronvolts. This is far higher than the Large Hadron Collider's record of 13.6T. The underground tunnel within which the Future Circular Collider will pass under Lake Geneva and then loop around underneath the French town of Annecy.4
- While CERN hopes to use this novel technology to discover properties that are believed to make up 95% of the universe, the Swiss and French governments will also work together to ensure it won't negatively impact surrounding communities or ecosystems.5
- Narrative A, as provided by Research Outreach. Previous colliders like the Large Hadron Collider have brought us world-changing knowledge concerning what the universe is made of and how it works. However, for scientists to understand dark energy and matter, it will take decades of research and exponentially more energy to discover — quite literally — new physics. Lessons learned from past technological shortfalls and failures in resource and budget management will also help the world's physicists come together to build something more powerful than currently imaginable.
- Narrative B, as provided by Scientific American. While the potential discoveries touted by CERN sound amazing, the billions of dollars in just starting costs are not worth a project that could very well lead to nothing. Since the 1940s, scientists have made incremental progress until they discovered the Higgs boson particle — which has established the Standard Model law of physics. What CERN wants to spend decades of work and billions of dollars investigating now — dark matter and dark energy — are things that currently have no evidence behind them and might not be possible to find. There are better uses of these massive funds.