Research

Energy Frontier

The journey to the Energy Frontier begins with the proton accelerator. Capable of producing the highest-energy particle beams ever made, proton accelerators allow physicists to study fundamental properties of matter and the forces that govern its interactions. At the same time, proton accelerators can recreate the conditions of the early Universe, producing particles that were abundant a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. By colliding proton beams into targets, many other particles, such as antiprotons, mesons, muons, and neutrinos, can also be produced for multiple types of experiments that require beams of these particles

At nearly two trillion electron volts (TeV), the Tevatron at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, has been the world's largest operating proton accelerator for more than 15 years. The Tevatron collides protons and antiprotons in an underground ring four miles in circumference. Millions of these proton-antiproton collisions occur within the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) and DZero detectors every second, where physicists record them for later, off-line analysis. Many discoveries have been made at the Tevatron, among them the discovery of the last of the six quarks predicted by current theory in 1995, the so-called top quark, and made first observation and measurements of Bs oscillations.

In November 2009, the Energy Frontier moved to Geneva, Switzerland, when The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) produced the highest energy protons at 1.18 trillion electron volts (TeV). The LHC operates at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory in a 27-kilometer circular tunnel about 100 meters underground.  The circular tunnel holds two beams lines with protons circulating in opposite directions. The beams cross-over at 6 points where proton-proton collisions occur. The LHC will ultimately create almost a billion proton-proton collisions per second at a center-of-mass energy of 14 TeV, seven times higher than any particle collider has previously achieved. At these energies, the speed of the protons is just short of the speed of light, and the protons whip around the 27-kilometer racetrack 11,000 times each second. In 2012, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, the final particle predicted by the Standard Model. The discovery of the Higgs boson was followed by the awarding of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics to François Englert and Peter Higgs, theorists who contributed to our understanding of the origin of mass by predicting the Higgs boson in 1964.

More than 1,200 scientists from U.S. universities and institutions participate in the design, construction and operation of the machine. U.S. scientists will remain active leaders at the Energy Frontier both here in the U.S. and abroad at CERN.

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Last modified: 1/24/2014 11:03:11 AM