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Dublin: 5°C Saturday 17 April 2021

Hadron Collider generates 'mini-Big Bang'

Scientists celebrate success of high-speed lead ion collisions.

File photo of the LHC in its tunnel at CERN.
File photo of the LHC in its tunnel at CERN.
Image: Martial Trezzini/AP/Press Association Images

THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER has managed to create a mini-Big Bang at its base near Geneva, Switzerland.

Scientists working on ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) say their achievement will open up a new era in particle physics research, according to the PA.

In the experiment, powerful magnets spun lead ions around miles of tunnels at the speed of light and in opposing directions to generate collisions.

The collisions of lead ions generated temperatures a thousand times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

The BBC reports that up until now, the particle accelerator has been colliding protons, which could help locate the Higgs boson particle.

One of the scientists on the project, Dr David Evans, said:

This process took place in a safe, controlled environment generating incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures of over 10 trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma.

In an article for the Telegraph, Evans said densities “similar to a neutron star (imagine one of the great pyramids of Egypt crushed to the size of a pinhead)” were achieved in the collisions.

He said by creating that hot dense ‘soup’, “In a way, we will be recreating a tiny amount of the very early Universe”.

Scientists hope the “quark-gluon plasma” Evans referred to with help them learn more about one of the four fundamental forces of nature, the Strong Force, which binds the nuclei of atoms together and is responsible for 98% of an atom’s mass.

Researchers will spend the next four weeks analysing the data recorded during the ion collisions.

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