10 things you (probably) didn't know about CERN

Extremes of temperature found nowhere else on Earth, collisions at close to the speed of light, cables that could stretch to the sun and back and an antimatter factory - uncover incredible facts about Europe's laboratory for particle physics.

LHC collisions (2014-05-24) by CERN (Daniel Dominguez)CERN

1. Super collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) smashes protons into one another at a rate of 2 billion per second.

That's more than twice the rate the machine was originally designed to handle.

The Sun with Prominence (2005-05-16) by NASACERN

2. It's getting hot in here

An LHC collision of two lead nuclei creates a searing quark-gluon plasma - a primordial soup of fundamental particles as hot as 4 trillion degrees - about 200,000 times hotter than the core of the Sun.

ATLAS detector (2005-11-04) by CERN (Maximilien Brice)CERN

3. Big deal

The ATLAS detector at the LHC has a diameter of 26 m and a length of 42 m – the dimensions of a 6-story building.

Superconducting wire (2004-03-19) by CERN (Maximilien Brice)CERN

4. Reach for the Sun

LHC magnets use superconducting niobium-titanium cables. Each contains thousands of filaments 0.007 mm thick - about 1/10 of the diameter of a human hair. Laid end to end, the filaments would stretch to the Sun and back more than five times (1.7 billion km).

Cryogenic installation (2006-06-16) by CERN (Maximilien Brice)CERN

5. Big freeze

The LHC is the world’s largest fridge. It's 36,000 tonnes of magnets are cooled to 1.9 K (-271.3 degrees C). That's colder than outer space. This needs 120 tonnes of superfluid helium, 10,000 tonnes of liquid nitrogen, 40 MW of electricity and 40,000 leak-tight pipe seals.

Protons circulation (2015-06-01) by CERN (Daniel Dominguez)CERN

6. Let's go round again

Protons circuit the LHC 11,245 times per second. It takes on average 10 hours before they collide with other protons. On their way, they travel more than 10 billion kilometres - the distance to Neptune and back.

Speed by ShutterstockCERN

7. Faster than lightning

The LHC is the fastest racetrack on Earth. Protons at full energy travel at 99.9999991% of the speed of light - just 3 metres per second slower than a beam of light.

Copper by ShutterstockCERN

8. High energy

At full energy, the two proton beams carry a kinetic energy of about 700 megajoules - enough to melt more than 1 tonne of copper.

CMS Experiment Event (2016-05-07) by CMS ExperimentCERN

9. Matter of fact

The LHC produces a lots of antimatter. As many as 100 billion antiparticles emerge every second during particle collisions. But the antiparticles move close to the speed of light, and are quickly absorbed in the detector.

Penning trap electrodes by CERNCERN

10. Antimatter bomb?

CERN’s antiproton decelerator can make 100 billion antiprotons (0.1 picogram) a day. The low-energy antiprotons can be captured in Penning traps, but contrary to the movie Angels & Demons, it'd take billions of years to make and store a gram of antimatter.

Credits: Story

Paulina Mlynarska
Rolf Landua

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Once Upon a Try
A journey of invention and discovery with CERN, NASA, and more than 100 museums around the world
View theme
Google apps