CERN Accelerating science

How fundamental science is changing our world

Fundamental science benefits society in many ways, from generating knowledge about how our universe works, to enabling unexpected and often transformative applications. Particle accelerators have been at the centre of many of the most advanced research infrastructures for decades. They have enabled many discoveries, such as the Higgs boson, and also led to the development of technologies that have changed our lives.

Future particle accelerators are expected to have a similarly bold impact on science and society. To showcase and the discuss the technologies that are currently being developed within the global Future Circular Collider (FCC) study, almost 1,000 researchers and industrialists from across Europe, university and high school students participated in “Particle Colliders – Accelerating Innovation”, an international science Symposium that took place in Liverpool on Friday 22nd March 2019.

The event, which was co-hosted by the University of Liverpool and CERN together with partners from the Future Circular Collider and EuroCirCol projects and the support of the EASITRain and AVA MSCA training networks, investigated the opportunities that a next generation of colliders can offer to industry, scientists and society.

In January 2019, CERN published the conceptual design report for the Future Circular Collider (FCC), a potential successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which aims to expand our current understanding of nature beyond the established physical model of the universe.

Professor Carsten P. Welsch, Head of the University of Liverpool Physics Department and organizer of the event, explains why fundamental research is key to advancing a knowledge-based society: “Fundamental research enables discoveries that push the boundaries of our understanding of the universe. This requires highly advanced experiments, made possible through a true global effort. Developing the design concept for future research infrastructures is not just about the science they would enable; it also requires us to drive technological progress that can benefit our everyday lives.”

The keynote talks from the Symposium were live-streamed to institutions across Europe and are now available to watch via the event website. Dozens of companies from across the UK and other EU countries showcased their latest products in an industry exhibition which followed the morning talks. The exhibition also served university students as a careers fair. They had their normal modules replaced by this unique event and found an ideal opportunity to discuss employment opportunities in different sectors. A wide range of high tech companies joined the event and provided insight into where their physics degree might take the students to next.

Image 1. Part of the outreach exhibition with the LHC interactive tunnel in the front. (Image: University of Liverpool)

More than a dozen different outreach activities, each one offered several times in parallel, were available to high school students. This included the Plasmatron, an interactive game explaining the physics behind plasma accelerators, salad bowl accelerators showing how high voltages can be generated, the augmented reality accelerator acceleratAR that turns paper cubes into components of a particle accelerator, and cryo-experiments that turned flowers into glass-like objects…which were then smashed into pieces by the children, as can be seen on the photo below.

Image 2. Part of the outreach exhibition with the LHC interactive tunnel in the front. (Image: University of Liverpool)

The entire hall was full of physics, in fact, there was even physics in the way that activities were set up as they were arranged along the spectral colours of the rainbow. A leaflet was made available to all participants and explained the link between each individual activity and ongoing accelerator science R&D.

A highlight for the hundreds of visually impaired and sighted students attending was a demonstration of the world’s first interactive ‘Tactile Collider’, which uses touch together with real sounds from the LHC to create an immersive experience. This unique experience was developed by experts from the Cockcroft Institute and has been touring the UK over the past 2 years. The event was made inclusive for VI children: in addition to tactile collider, all talks were supported by a narrator who explained the slides on display via Bluetooth headset to them. RNIB Connect Radio's Simon Pauley spoke with Dr Chris Edmonds and Professor Carsten Welsch the day before the event and you can listen to the interview here.

Finally, delegates also had the chance to play proton football and interact with visualisations of themselves in two different universes within CERN’s interactive Large Hadron Collider Tunnel, which made its UK premiere at the Symposium.

The “Particle Colliders: Accelerating Innovation” Symposium was co-hosted by the University of Liverpool and CERN, together with partners from the Future Circular Collider and EuroCirCol projects, on Friday 22 March 2019 at the ACC Liverpool. All talks and further information are available via the event website:

D. Gamba, A. Curcio, R. Corsini (CERN)
First experimental results from the CLEAR facility at CERN
3 Jul 2018

First experimental results from the CLEAR facility at CERN

Flexibility and versatility, together with a dynamic and experienced team of researchers, are key ingredients for the growing success of the new CLEAR facility, exploring novel accelerator concepts at CERN.

Ricardo Torres (University of Liverpool)
How fundamental science is changing our world
27 Mar 2019

How fundamental science is changing our world

Global FCC study discussed benefits of discovery science to society and industry at Symposium “Particle Colliders – Accelerating Innovation”

Paul Wynne (International Irradiation Association)
The importance of knowledge transfer in the development and application of ionizing radiation
15 Jul 2020

The importance of knowledge transfer in the development and application of ionizing radiation

Companies provided the means by which ionizing radiation could be utilised in the development of products and services.

Academia-industry collaboration drives innovation

Co-innovation workshop focused on strategic R&D programme of future collider and the benefits for industry in terms of project involvement and product commercialisation.

A new particle collider requires pushing numerous technologies beyond their state of the art. This situation provides industry with powerful test-beds for future markets that come with a high publicity factor. Novel technologies and processes can be piloted with controlled effort engagement. Well-controlled environments allow advancing technologies under conditions that extend beyond conventional product requirements. SMEs are ideal partners to bring these technologies to maturity on the quality level, generating new markets and leading to improved products.

Around 100 researchers, academics and industry delegates from the UK and other EU countries joined an academia-industry Co-Innovation workshop in Liverpool, UK on 22 March 2019. The event explored the exciting opportunities that the technology R&D around the FCC study presents for industry involvement and joint R&D programmes and was supported by the EU-funded EuroCirCol project and that MSCA training networks of EASITrain, OMA and AVA.

Image 1. Workshop participants discussing a range of key technologies. (Image: University of Liverpool)

Discussions across a number of working groups were motivated by the Future Circular Collider (FCC) study, but not limited to this study or even particle accelerators at all – the aim was to identify common ground for joint R&D across disciplinary boundaries. 

Working groups were formed to discuss specific opportunities for co-innovation and funding and included for example superconducting magnet technologies which are also two key topics for EASITrain, cryogenics, civil engineering, detector development, radiofrequency technology, energy efficiency, novel materials and material processing techniques.

Image 2. An industry exhibition took place before the workshop to showcase latest technologies. (Image: University of Liverpool)

Short talks about FCC-related areas for innovation, examples of successful technology transfer projects at CERN, as well as current funding opportunities stimulated interesting discussions amongst the participants. All of these presentations are now available via the workshop homepage.

The workshop served as an ideal platform for networking across sector boundaries and opened a number of interesting discussions. Several areas were identified that provide an excellent basis for co-innovation, including resource-efficient tunnelling, transferring optimised purpose-built machine learning soft- and hardware from particle physics to industry, and detector R&D in terms of high speed, power  and material constraints, cooling, and data maximization. Notes from all working groups are currently being finalized and will be used to follow up on agreed R&D lines with the aim to setup joint funding bids between participants.

It is anticipated that the final applications of the new technologies that are being developed for a next generation collider will stretch far beyond the applications initially targeted. The World Wide Web, originally invited to support particle physics experiments, has just celebrated its 30th anniversary and is an outstanding example of how these technologies can impact on everyday lives.

There are many other successful examples of where innovations made for fundamental research are benefiting society - most of the time in completely unforeseen ways. The FCC study illustrates this in the brand-new film “Busy bees and might magnets – From the Higgs to Honey: What's all the Buzz about Particle Accelerators?” which was produced between CERN and the University of Liverpool.



The film was launched at the event in Liverpool is now available on YouTube.

Yiota Foka (CERN)
Master Class captivates the next generation of scientists
11 Jul 2019

Master Class captivates the next generation of scientists

CERN, DKFZ Heidelberg and GSI Darmstadt engage the next generation of scientists through a hands-on experience on particle therapy.

Matthew Chalmers (Editor, CERN Courier)
HL-LHC superconducting quadrupole successfully tested
26 Mar 2020

HL-LHC superconducting quadrupole successfully tested

Advanced niobium-tin accelerator magnets for the LHC upgrade developed at US labs are also carving a path towards future energy-frontier colliders.

Livia Lapadatescu
Simon van der Meer Award
24 Mar 2019

Simon van der Meer Award

Apply now to Simon van der Meer Early Career Award in Novel Accelerators! Deadline: 27 May 2019

FCC collaboration publishes its Conceptual Design Report

In December 2018, the Future Circular Collider (FCC) collaboration submitted its Conceptual Design Report (CDR) for publication. The four-volume document signed documents different options for a large circular collider for the post-LHC era. The FCC CDR has more than 1300 contributors coming from 150 institutes from all over the world including universities, research centres and industrial partners who actively participated in the design effort and the R&D of new technologies to prepare for the sustainable deployment and efficient operation of a possible future circular collider.

The four volumes highlight the broad physics opportunities offered by machines that offer more energy, more intensity and more precision in exploring the fundamental nature of matter and describes the technical challenges along with the cost estimates and a concrete schedule for realisation. 

The FCC collaboration has also submitted four volumes discussing the different options of a lepton collider, a hadron collider and the so-called integrated programme of these two options that can run from 2038 until the end of the 21st century. These documents will inform the next update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics and help the global particle physics community to outline the future of the field beyond the horizon of the LHC.   The high statistics of the FCC- ee offers the opportunity for far- improved precision of electroweak and Higgs boson measurements. Other hints of new physics could arise from the observation of flavour- changing neutral currents or lepton- flavour-violating decays, from the precise measurements of the Z and Higgs bosons to their possible decays to invisible particles.

The FCC study was launched in 2014, as a response to the European Strategy meeting for particle physics, to prepare a global vision for the post-LHC era. Growing experimental evidence tells us rather clearly that there is more in the Universe than just the particles and the interactions that are described by the Standard Model. The compelling questions in modern physics call for a rigorous and diverse scientific program, with energy and intensity frontier accelerators being a fundamental component of it. Given the complexity and the different challenges of realising and operating these machines it is timely to launch now a feasibility study that helps to understand their exploratory potential as well as suggest strategic R&D to further increase the efficiency of these machines. 

The FCC’s ultimate goal is to provide a 100-km superconducting proton accelerator ring, with an energy of up to 100 TeV, meaning an order of magnitude more powerful than the LHC”, said CERN Director for Accelerators and Technology, Frédérick Bordry. “The FCC timeline foresees starting with an electron-positron machine, just as LEP preceded the LHC. This would enable a rich programme to benefit the particle physics community throughout the twenty-first century.”

The FCC study successfully launched new collaborations, to optimise the available resources, exploit the opportunities for training the new generation and strengthening industries that are an integral part of the ongoing R&D. The effort was supported by the EU H2020 programme through the EuroCirCol infrastructure design study. Moreover, the EASITrain Marie Curie training network (ITN) covers three key technologies for FCC, namely superconducting wires, superconducting thin films and cryogenic refrigeration, and provides a fertile environment where young researchers and experts from industry and research centres can develop innovative solutions that will allow large-scale applications of this alluring technology.

A 90 to 365 GeV electron-positron machine with high luminosity could be a first step. Such a collider would be a very powerful “Higgs factory”, making it possible to detect new, rare processes and measure the known particles with precisions never achieved before. These precise measurements would provide great sensitivity to possible tiny deviations from the Standard Model expectations, which would be a sign of new physics.

The lessons from the FCC- ee would be valuable for the next step: a future high- energy collider (FCC-hh). Using new-generation high-field superconducting magnets, the FCChh would offer a wide range of new physics opportunities. Reaching energies of 100 TeV and beyond would allow precise studies of how the recently discovered Higgs particle interacts with another Higgs particle and shed light to the fundamental nature of this particle. and thorough exploration of the role of the electroweak symmetry breaking in the history of our universe. It would also allow us to access higher energy scales, exploring the role of the electroweak symmetry breaking in the history of our Universe and looking for new massive particles and new phenomena. In addition, it would also collide heavy ions, sustaining a rich heavy-ion physics programme to study the state of matter in the early universe. Finally, the proposed research infrastructure further profits from an electron-proton collision point adding to the versatility of the proposed research programme.

A staged integrated programme is proposed, in which one of the colliders explored by the FCC study, the FCC-ee, could be operational by 2039, just after the end of the HL-LHC programme, which would be followed by an FCC-hh physics programme starting in 2050–2060. The options explored by the FCC study might sound reminiscent of the history of the LEP and LHC colliders housed in the same 27 km built in the 1980s. Together, these two machines, along with results from the Tevatron collider in the United States, verified and completed the SM of particle physics, contributing to it growing into the successful theory it is today.

The complex instruments required for particle physics inspire new concepts, innovation and groundbreaking technologies, which benefit other research disciplines and eventually find their way into many applications that have a significant impact on the knowledge economy and society. A future circular collider would offer extraordinary opportunities for industry, helping to push the limits of technology further. It would also provide exceptional training for a new generation of researchers and engineers.

The four volumes of the FCC CDR  can be downloaded here:

Interview by Romain Muller (CERN)
Behind the scenes at the Big Science Business Forum (BSBF): New procurement practices can support large research organisations
3 Jul 2018

Behind the scenes at the Big Science Business Forum (BSBF): New procurement practices can support large research organisations

An interview with Anders Unnervik, Head of the Procurement and Industrial Services Group at CERN

Ricardo Torres (University of Liverpool)
The Tale of Two Tunnels
10 Dec 2018

The Tale of Two Tunnels

Liverpool will be turned into a particle accelerator exhibition.

Panagiotis Charitos (CERN)
Quadrupole magnets for FCC-ee
8 Oct 2018

Quadrupole magnets for FCC-ee

First tests of a twin quadrupole magnet for FCC-ee took place last summer in CERN's new magnetic measurement laboratory.

Advancing superconductivity for future magnets

Superconductivity has been instrumental for the realization of large particle accelerators and is a key enabling technology for a future circular proton-proton collider (FCC-hh) reaching energies of 100 TeV.

The alloy Nb-Ti is undoubtedly the most successful practical superconductor, and it has been used in all superconducting particle accelerators and detectors built to date, but the higher magnetic fields required for the High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) upgrade and a future circular collider (FCC) call for new materials. An enabling superconducting technology for accelerator magnets beyond 10 tesla is the niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) compound.

Nb3Sn wires suitable for producing the 11 T magnets required for the HL-LHC have been produced in industry, but the high-field magnets proposed for the FCC would require a substantial step forward in performance. In order to achieve this goal, a conductor development programme is under way at CERN.

To address the challenges of this project, a Conductor Development Workshop has bene launched by CERN. Amalia Ballarino, leader of the Superconductor and Superconducting Devices (SCD) section says: “It is the right time to create momentum for the FCC study and to bring together the current participants in our conductor development project to share recent progress and discuss future activities.”

The focus of the conductor development programme is on the development of Nb3Sn multi-filamentary wires able to meet the target non-copper critical current density (Jc) performance of 1,500 A/mm2 at 16 T and at a temperature of 4.2 K (-268.95 °C). CERN is engaged in collaborative conductor development activities with a number of industrial and academic partners to achieve these challenging goals, and the initial phase of the programme will last four years.

Presently, the conductor developed for HL-LHC reaches a performance of about 1,000–1200 A/mm2 at 16 T and 4.2 K, and a significant R&D effort is needed to increase this by 30 to 50% to meet the requirements of 16 T magnets. “The magnets for future higher energy accelerators require fundamental research on superconductors to achieve the targets in performance and cost,” says Ballarino. For the FCC magnets, thousands of tonnes of superconductor will be required. Along with an increase in performance, a more competitive cost is needed, which calls for a wire design suitable for industrial-scale production at a considerably lower cost than the state-of-the-art conductor.

Representatives from five research institutes and seven companies, from the US, Japan, Korea, Russia, China and Europe, travelled to CERN in March 2018 to attend the first Conductor Development Workshop. “Our aim is to open up a space where collaborators can discuss the current status and review different approaches to meet the target performance and cost. The meeting also serves as an invitation to potential new partners interested in joining this effort”. Two new companies attended the workshop to discuss their possible future involvement in the project, namely Luvata and Western Superconducting Technologies (WST).

The workshop started with a plenary session followed by closed meetings during which companies engaged in fruitful discussions.  “Presentations in the plenary session gave a valuable overview of progress and future directions,” observed Simon Hopkins, a CERN expert on superconductivity and scientific secretary of the workshop, “but we recognise the commercial sensitivity of some of these developments. It was essential to provide an environment in which our industrial partners were free to discuss the details openly: both their proposed technical solutions and a realistic assessment of the challenges ahead.”

First Future Circular Collider conductor development workshop (Credit: Athina Papageorgiou-Koufidou).

The early involvement of industry, and their investment in developing new technologies, is crucial for the success of the programme. One of the positive outcomes of this meeting has been that, according to Amalia Ballarino: “Thanks to their commitment to the programme, and with CERN’s support, companies are now investing in a transition to internal tin processes. It was impressive to see achievements after only one year of activity”. Several partners have produced wire with Jc performance close to or exceeding the HL-LHC specification, and all of the companies that attended the workshop had new designs to present, some of which are very innovative.

Cross-sections of prototype Nb3Sn wires developed in collaboration with CERN as part of the FCC conductor development programme.Top: optical micrographs of wires from Kiswire Advanced Technology. Bottom: electron micrographs showing a wire developed by JASTEC in collaboration with KEK. Both show the unreacted wire before the heat treatment to form the Nb3Sn compound from the niobium filaments and tin. (Credit: KAT/JASTEC. The image originally appeared in the CERN Courier, June, 2018). 

The companies already producing Nb3Sn superconducting wire for the programme are Kiswire Advanced Technology Co., Ltd. (KAT); TVEL Fuel Company supported by the Bochvar Institute (JSC VNIINM); and from Japan, Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd. and Japan Superconductor Technology Inc. (JASTEC), coordinated by the Japanese High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation, KEK. Columbus Superconductor SpA will participate in the programme for other superconducting materials.  Arrangements are now being finalised for Luvata and another manufacturer, Bruker EAS, to join the programme; and the participation of our Russian partner, TVEL, has been renewed.

Moreover, the organizers acknowledged the contribution of the academic partners, who are developing innovative approaches for the characterization of superconducting wires, as well as investigating new materials and processes that could help meet the required targets. Developments include the correlation of microstructures, compositional variations and superconducting properties in TU Wien; research into promising internal oxidation routes in the University of Geneva; the study of phase transformations at TU Bergakademie Freiberg; and conductors based on novel superconductors at CNR-SPIN.

Finally, during the two-day workshop a panel of experts reviewed the conductor programme and offered their invaluable insights during the last session of the workshop. Their recommendations centred on the scope and focus of the programme, encouraging an emphasis on novel approaches to achieve a breakthrough in performance, with the broadest possible participation of industrial partners, underpinned by close long-term partnerships with research institutions. “We fully share the panel’s ambition for developing novel approaches with our industrial partners,” agreed Hopkins. “Improving our understanding of the materials science of Nb3Sn wires is also essential for developing new and optimised processing methods, and we welcome the contribution of new research institutes”. A US research institute, the Applied Superconductivity Center based in the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (Florida State University) has also joined the programme.


The structure of the FCC Conductor Development Programme, showing the activities (shaded boxes) and partners. A dotted outline and italic text indicate pending participants, whose participation is currently being finalised. (Credit: CERN)

Since the workshop, partners in the conductor development programme have continued to make good progress: the latest results will be presented at the Applied Superconductivity Conference in October 2018 (Seattle, USA), and a second edition of the workshop is planned in 2019.

We are confident that this will result in a new class of high-performance Nb3Sn material suitable not only for accelerator magnets, but also for other large-scale applications such as high field NMR and laboratory solenoids or MRI scanners for medical research.


Top image:  High-performance Nb3Sn cables are being assembled by a Rutherford cabling machine in CERN's superconducting laboratory (Credits: CERN). 

Panos Charitos (CERN)
Charting impact pathways of Research Infrastructures
13 Mar 2018

Charting impact pathways of Research Infrastructures

Kick-off meeting of the H2020 “RI-PATHS” project in Brussels.

Maurizio Vretenar (CERN)
Accelerator-Industry Co-Innovation Workshop
15 Mar 2018

Accelerator-Industry Co-Innovation Workshop

Tools and strategies to enhance industry-academia cooperation in the particle accelerator community

Daniela Antonio (CERN)
Budapest welcomes the 2nd ARIES Annual Meeting
16 Jul 2019

Budapest welcomes the 2nd ARIES Annual Meeting

ARIES Annual Meeting highlights reports from networks, transnational access, proof-of-concept projects, workshops and a special session on accelerator science applied to medicine.