China Seeks To Demystify ‘God Particle’ By Building The World’s Most Powerful Particle Collider

China has started work on the world’s largest supercollider, a mega-machine that will help scientists decode the mystery of the Higgs boson, or the “god particle,” according to reports emerging in its state-run media.

The Higgs boson, which was famously dubbed the “god particle” for its ability to endow mass, was first discovered by scientists in 2012 at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), currently the world’s largest facility where subatomic particles can smash against each other at enormous speeds. However, once it is complete, China’s supercollider will easily surpass the giant European lab located at the Swiss-French border, being almost twice its size.

The discovery of the Higgs boson was considered by many as the greatest discovery in physics for some decades, and scientists remain hopeful that knowing more about the “god particle” will also help us deconstruct our universe in a more coherent manner.

China Daily (via Asia Times) reports that the building for the first phase of the giant accelerator will begin in 2020. According to an exclusive interview granted to the newspaper by Wang Yifang, director of the Institute of High Energy Physics at the China Academy of Sciences, the supercollider is being built with an aim to help the international scientific community advance its research into the Higgs boson and is not merely a device to help China stake a claim as a science leader in the world.

“This is a machine for the world and by the world: not a Chinese one. We have completed the initial conceptual design and organized international peer review recently, and the final conceptual design will be completed by the end of 2016,” added Yifang.

Institute of High Energy Physics at the China Academy of Sciences is already responsible for operating high-energy physics projects in China, such as the Beijing Electron Positron Collider and the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino experiment, according to the Economic Times.

China is building the world's largest particle collider, which will easily surpass the current largest collider, located at the Swiss-French border.
A model of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) tunnel is seen in the CERN (European Organization For Nuclear Research) visitors' center. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

While the Large Hadron Collider consists of a 17-mile-long accelerator chains and detectors buried more than 100 meters underground, scientists so far have been able to spot only hundreds of Higgs boson particles, making it near impossible for them to learn the structure and probable functions of the particle.

However, with a circumference of up to 65 miles, the proposed Circular Electron Positron Collider (CEPC) will generate millions of Higgs boson particles, allowing a more precise understanding. During the interview with China Daily, Yifang reiterated that China’s need to build world’s largest supercollider stemmed from LHC’s limits, and its eventual inability to generate an unprecedented number of Higgs boson particles, a requisite for advancing research in the area.

“(The) LHC is hitting its limits of energy level. It seems not possible to escalate the energy dramatically at the existing facility.”

Yifang also went on to say that the way China’s supercollider will generate the Higgs boson particles will be different from the way LHC generates those particles.

“The technical route we chose is different from LHC. While LHC smashes together protons, it generates Higgs particles together with many other particles. The proposed CEPC, however, collides electrons and positrons to create an extremely clean environment that only produces Higgs particles.”

Peter Higgs, the Nobel laureate on whom the Higgs boson particles have been named.
Professor Peter Higgs, a Nobel Prize laureate for his work on the mass of subatomic particles and the scientist on whom the Higgs boson particles are named. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Despite the fact that China seems hellbent on building the world’s largest particle collider, CERN has its own plans to upgrade the Large Hadron Collider, according to The Guardian. Aiming for a tenfold increase by 2025 in the “luminosity” of the LHC, CERN chief Rolf Heuer said the rate of particle collisions that the machine can generate is set to increase dramatically by the next decade.

“The LHC already delivers proton collisions at the highest energy ever. The High-Luminosity LHC will produce collisions 10 times more rapidly, increasing our discovery potential and transforming the LHC into a machine for precision studies: the natural next step for the high-energy frontier.”

China will be hoping its supercollider will be the natural next step for the high-energy frontier.

[Photo via Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images]