Physics students visit the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland

  • Published: 24th February 2017

Earlier this month, eighteen first and second year A-Level Physics students went on a trip to Geneva, Switzerland to visit CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Accompanied by their tutors Mr Askwith and Ms Koursarou, they flew from Gatwick to Geneva for the three-day visit.

The visit had been in planning for 12 months and much of the student cost was covered by the SFX student fund, meaning the students only had to contribute £130 towards the trip, including all travel, accommodation and most meals.

CERN February 2017-22They spent a full day at CERN and were given a guided tour, which included visiting the famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC)- the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It first started up on 10 September 2008 and remains the latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex. The LHC consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way. Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before CERN Guided tourthey are made to collide. The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes – two tubes kept at ultrahigh vacuum. They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets. The electromagnets are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy. This requires chilling the magnets to  271.3°C – a temperature colder than outer space. For this reason, much of the accelerator is connected to a distribution system of liquid helium, which cools the magnets, as well as to other supply services.

The students sat and ate their lunch with some of the world’s top scientists, physicists and engineers- including Nobel Prize winners.

CERN February 2017-14The CERN centre is also the location where British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world. The students were able to view the original computer where Tim Berners-Lee wrote the code to create the WWW!

Whilst in Geneva the students stayed at the Geneva Youth Hostel. As well as visiting CERN the Physics students did a lot of walking while taking in the sights of Geneva. They visited The Museum of the History of Science, the beautiful Geneva Old town, the famous landmark of the Jet d’Eau and took a boat trip on Lake Geneva.