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Watch again: Behind-the-scenes look at CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory

CERN Open Days 2019
CERN Open Days 2019   -   Copyright  CERN
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In a special live broadcast from CERN, we went behind the scenes at the world's largest particle physics laboratory, where scientists are trying to unlock the secrets of our universe.

The European centre is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 27-km-long ring used to make particles collide at the speed of light.

You can watch back the special broadcast in the video player above.

LHC is currently closed for upgrades, which has enabled CERN — situated on the French/Swiss border — to open its doors to the public.

CERN was developed in part to foster peaceful collaboration among European countries, Gianotti explained, pointing out that science is a tool for peace and at CERN they are working to build the future of the laboratory.

Making particles collide

Physicists at CERN explained during the live broadcast that they work to put energy into the particle in order to smash them and transform it into mass.

They make the particles collide in order to make other particles, some of which are very rare. Many particles are ones that they've studied before.

Beams collide 40 million times per second.

Are the experiments safe?

Frederick Bordry, CERN's director for accelerators and technology, said that although a lot of energy is stored in the magnet, it is very safe.

"Nobody has access to the tunnel when it is operating," Boudry said.


Amalia Ballarino is the section leader of superconductors and devices at CERN.

She explains that superconductors are the secret of the LHC's magnet and allow it to transfer current with zero resistance. In order to operate these magnets, they maintain a temperature of -271 degrees Celsius.

In everyday life, this type of technology is used when you get an MRI scan, where magnetic fields are used to generate images of the human body.

New technologies

Usually, particles are accelerated in the Large Hadron Collider, but CERN is working on new AWAKE technology to accelerate particles to higher energies.

AWAKE technology uses plasma instead of a vacuum. The plasma acts like a wave to accelerate particles.

CERN is also studying new potential colliders for after 2040. Some would use electrons and positrons instead of protons which would allow them to measure the properties of the Higgs Boson—a manifestation of an invisible field which gives a particle its mass.

Though CERN does not do medical work, they liaise with experts in the medical field, because some of the CERN accelerator technologies that have applications in cancer treatments, says Anais Kassat, a knowledge transfer communicator for CERN.

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