Cern has published its ideas for a £20bn successor to the Large Hadron Collider, given the working name of Future Circular Collider (FCC). The aim is to have the FCC hunting for new sub-atomic particles by 2050.
The Geneva based particle physics research centre is proposing an accelerator that is almost four times longer and ten times more powerful.
Critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change.
But Cern’s Director-General, Prof Fabiola Gianotti described the proposal as “a remarkable accomplishment”.
“It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society,” she said.
Cern’s plans have been submitted in a conceptual design report. These will be considered by an international panel of particle physicists, along with other submissions, as they draw up a new European strategy for particle physics for publication in 2020.
Prof Jon Butterworth of University College, London is among those drawing up the strategy. Although he was keeping an open mind, he was particularly attracted to Cern’s proposal.
It entails gradually building up to a 100km ring that is almost ten times more powerful than the LHC. “This programme is very ambitious, very exciting and would be my plan A,” he said.
The proposal involves digging a new tunnel under Cern and then installing a ring that would initially collide electrons with their positively charged counterparts, positrons.
Stage two would involve installing a larger ring to collide hadrons with electrons.
Stages one and two would lay the ground for the final step of colliding hadrons together nearly ten times harder than they have been by the LHC.
However Cern’s director for accelerators and technology, Dr Frédérick Bordry, said that he did not think that £20bn was expensive for a cutting edge project, the cost of which would be spread among several international partners over 20 years.
He added that spending on Cern had led to many technological benefits, such as the World Wide Web and the real benefits were yet to be realized.