The history of CERN

Antiproton Decelerator approved

7 February 1997

In 1996 CERN's antiproton machines – the Antiproton Accumulator (AC), the Antiproton Collector and the Low Energy Antiproton Ring (LEAR) – were closed down to free resources for the Large Hadron Collider. But a community of antimatter scientists wanted to continue their LEAR experiments with slow antiprotons. Council asked the Proton Synchrotron division to investigate a low-cost way to provide the necessary low-energy beams.

The resulting design report for the Antiproton Decelerator concluded:

The use of the Antiproton Collector as an antiproton decelerator holds the promise of delivering dense beams of 107 protons per minutes and low energy (100 MeV/c) with bunch lengths down to 200 nanoseconds.

The Antiproton Declerator project was approved on 7 February 1997.

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The story of antimatter
CERN accelerators
The history of CERN

ALICE experiment approved

14 February 1997

The CERN research board officially approves the ALICE experiment. Re-using the L3 magnet experiment from the LEP, ALICE is designed to study quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that would have existed in the first moments of the universe.

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LHCb experiment approved

17 September 1998

LHCb is the fourth experiment approved for the LHC. The experiment will study the phenomenon known as CP violation, which would help to explain why matter dominates antimatter in the universe.

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The Large Hadron Collider

LEP's final shutdown

2 November 2000

The Large Electron-Positron collider was shut down for the last time at 8am on 2 November 2000. Members of government from around the world gathered at CERN on 9 October to celebrate the achievements of LEP and its 11 years of operational life. With the tunnel now  available for work, teams began excavating the caverns to house the four big detectors on the Large Hadron Collider.

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The Large Electron-Positron Collider
The history of CERN
CERN accelerators

CERN celebrates its 50th birthday

19 October 2004

CERN celebrated its 50th anniversary in style, with the inauguration of the Globe of Science and Innovation (pictured, under construction) on 19 October. A gift from the Swiss Confederation, the Globe is an iconic wooden structure first used for the Swiss national exhibition in 2002 as a pavilion dedicated to the theme of sustainable development. It was designed by architects Thomas Büchi and Hervé Dessimoz of Geneva. The Globe is being developed into a new visitor and networking centre for the Laboratory — a focal point for CERN’s interaction with society.

The inauguration of the Globe in 2004 coincided with the official celebration of CERN’s anniversary, attended by representatives of the Organization’s 20 member states including the heads of state of France, Spain and Switzerland.

Check out the website that contains a record of the activities that marked the Organization’s 50th Anniversary.

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Archive of important events in CERN's history for press

World's largest superconducting magnet switches on

20 November 2006

The ATLAS Barrel Toroid, then the largest superconducting magnet ever built, was switched on for the first time at CERN on 20 November 2006. The magnet is called the Barrel Toroid because of its barrel-like shape.

It provides a powerful magnetic field for ATLAS, one of the major particle detectors taking data at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The magnet consists of eight superconducting coils, each in the shape of a round-cornered rectangle, 5 metres wide, 25m long and weighing 100 tonnes, all aligned to millimetre precision.

The ATLAS Barrel Toroid was cooled down over a six-week period from July to August 2006 to reach –269°C . It was then powered up step-by-step to higher and higher currents, reaching 21 thousand amps for the first time during the night of 9 November. Afterwards, the current was switched off and the stored magnetic energy of 1.1 GigaJoules, the equivalent of about 10,000 cars travelling at 70 kilometres per hour, was safely dissipated, raising the cold mass of the magnet to –218°C.

Read the press release

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The LHC starts up

10 September 2008

At 10.28am on 10 September 2008 a beam of protons is successfully steered around the 27-kilometre Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for the first time. The machine is ready to embark on a new era of discovery at the high-energy frontier.

LHC experiments address questions such as what gives matter its mass, what the invisible 96% of the universe is made of, why nature prefers matter to antimatter and how matter evolved from the first instants of the universe’s existence.

Explore the resources prepared for press.

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The history of CERN
CERN accelerators
The Large Hadron Collider
The search for the Higgs boson
Archive of important events in CERN's history for press

Incident at the LHC

19 September 2008

On 19 September 2008, during powering tests of the main dipole circuit in Sector 3-4 of the LHC, a fault occurs in the electrical bus connection in the region between a dipole and a quadrupole, resulting in mechanical damage and release of helium from the magnet cold mass into the tunnel. Proper safety procedures are in force, the safety systems perform as expected, and no-one is put at risk.

More about the incident: 

A full technical analysis of the incident is available here

Or read an analysis of the LHC incident on CERN's press office website

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The Large Hadron Collider

Final magnet goes underground after LHC repair

30 April 2009

The 53rd and final replacement magnet for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is lowered into the accelerator tunnel, marking the end of repair work above ground following the incident in September the year before that brought LHC operations to a halt.

The final magnet, a quadrupole designed to focus the beam, is lowered in the afternoon and starts its journey to Sector 3-4, the scene of the September incident. In total 53 magnets were removed from Sector 3-4 after the incident. Sixteen that sustained minimal damage were refurbished and put back into the tunnel. The remaining 37 were replaced and will be refurbished to provide spares for the future.

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The history of CERN
The Large Hadron Collider

ALPHA traps antimatter atoms for 1000 seconds

5 June 2011

The ALPHA experiment at CERN reported today that it succeeded in trapping antimatter atoms for over 16 minutes: long enough to begin to study their properties in detail. ALPHA is part of a broad programme at CERN’s antiproton decelerator investigating the mysteries of one of nature’s most elusive substances.

ALPAH studied 300 trapped antiatoms. Trapping antiatoms will allow antihydrogen to be mapped precisely using laser or microwave spectroscopy so that it can be compared to the hydrogen atom, which is among the best-known systems in physics. Any difference between matter and antimatter should become apparent under careful scrutiny.

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The story of antimatter
The history of CERN

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