CERN Accelerating science

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Faster, higher, stronger

Even before CERN was officially founded, the provisional CERN Council decided in 1952 that the new laboratory should build two particle accelerators for research into the structure of the nucleus. Since then CERN has built a succession of machines, each more powerful than before, producing particles with higher energies and in huger numbers. In this way researchers have been able to peer ever deeper into the structure of matter and investigate an increasing range of new phenomena.

The Proton Synchrotron (PS), the larger of the first machines, began operation in 1959 and continues to function to this day, at the heart of CERN’s accelerator complex. It feeds the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), which gained fame in the early 1980s when it provided the beams for research that brought the Nobel Prize to CERN for the first time. Now both machines have a vital role in sending particles into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), CERN’s newest and most powerful accelerator.

The complex includes smaller machines, in particular the Antiproton Decelerator and the ISOLDE facility. These allow a wide range of investigations into exotic forms of matter — as well as antimatter. The PS and SPS also feed the CERN Neutrinos to Gran Sasso (CNGS) project, which sends particles underground all the way to Italy.

Physicists and engineers at CERN continue to work on ways to push accelerators still further. The Compact Linear Collider (CLIC) study aims to demonstrate new concepts for a linear machine that will collide beams of electrons and positrons head-on.