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The LHC, the world's most powerful accelerator

LHC inspectionThe 27 km underground ring of the LHC will accelerate particles at a phenomenal speed before smashing them into one another. Beams consisting of 3000 bunches of 100 billion particles will be injected into the accelerator and travel in opposite directions. Guided by several thousand magnets, they will go round the ring millions of times, picking up a small amount of energy on each lap.

Once the required energy has been reached, they will be guided towards each other inside the detectors. Each time the beams intersect, only 20 particles per bunch will collide. But, as the bunches meet 30 million times a second, up to 600 million collisions will be produced every second!

LHC stands for Large Hadron Collider. Physicists categorize the particles into different types: hadrons are particles made of up quarks, the smallest constituents of matter known to man, while protons and neutrons, which make up all ordinary matter, each contain three quarks. The LHC will accelerate protons and lead ions, which are themselves made up of 208 protons and neutrons.