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City physicists play key role in 'big bang; University developed detectors for experiment.


PHYSICISTS at the University of Liverpool are excitedly monitoring the progress of the "big bang" experiment they have been working on for 15 years.

The university has invested 160,000 man hours into the project, and has contributed to two of the four detectors in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the 27km circular tunnel built 100m below the France-Switzerland border.

When the experiment is fully operational next month, two particle beams will be accelerated to extremely high energies and will crash into each other 40m times a second, creating a snapshot of conditions that existed billionths of a second after the "big bang".

The team at the Liverpool Semiconductor Detector Centre assembled the parts which will detect the reactions produced as the accelerator collides billions of protons per second.

Prof Phil Allport, head of particle physics at the University of Liverpool, said: "For 15 years, teams of Liverpool physicists, engineers and specialist technicians have worked flat out, designing, building, installing and commissioning major sub-detector systems for two of the four giant experiments at the LHC.

"Now we are finally about to see first data emerging as part of a 20-year programme of discovery, which we fully expect to completely revolutionise our understanding of fundamental particles and forces."

The Liverpool team was able to see the first signs that the detector is doing its job following the switching-on of the LHC yesterday morning.

Prof Tim Greenshaw said: "We have seen the first evidence that our bit is working. If the particles are not on the right path, they'll hit the wall of the vacuum path, and our detectors have seen evidence of that happening."

Physicists at Liverpool have also played a significant role in the development of a precision silicon detector, the Vertex Locator (VELO).

Prof Themis Bowcock, from the University of Liverpool, is working as VELO project leader in Switzerland.

The VELO can see the position of particles passing through it with a precision of five microns, or one tenth of a hair's width.

It is hoped that this detector, which forms part of LHCb, will help to explain why, when the big bang created matter and antimatter, it is only possible to see matter.

First evidence our bit is working


European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientists control computer screens showing traces of the first protons detected in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), during its switch-on yesterday; Prof Phil Allport, left, and Prof Themis Bowcock
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2008
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