Guide to the Large Hadron Collider



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Alice and the moments after the Big Bang

David Shukman takes a look at the Alice experiment

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Panorama courtesy Peter McCready

While the other LHC detectors will use proton beams to do their science, Alice relies on smashing together electrically charged lead atoms.

Scientists hope to re-create a state of matter called quark-gluon plasma which existed just after the Big Bang.

Matter was in this "liquid" state because the early Universe was still extremely hot.

The Alice detector will be used to study this quark-gluon plasma as it expands and cools.

In doing so, they will observe how it progressively gives rise to the particles that make up the matter in our Universe today.

Each atom contains a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are in turn made of quarks, bound together by other particles called gluons.

The collisions between lead ions in the Large Hadron Collider will generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the core of the Sun.

Under these conditions, scientists hope that protons and neutrons will "melt", releasing the quarks from their bonds with the gluons, and creating the sought-after quark-gluon plasma.

The experiment has a central "barrel" structure with a muon spectrometer instrument.

The 26m (85ft)-long, 10,000-tonne detector is located at St Genis-Pouilly, in France.

ALICE FACTS
One pixel filler
Size: 26m (85ft) long, 16m (52ft) high, 16m (52ft) wide
Weight: 10,000 tonnes
Design: Central barrel plus single arm forward muon spectrometer
Material cost: £56m ($104m)

Source: Cern




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