$7b proposed for particle study
By Jia Hepeng
Updated: 2007-02-09 06:45

International scientists yesterday proposed a $7-billion-plus plan to build an international linear collider (ILC) to find unknown particles and conduct studies.

The international scientific community has been working for two decades to build an ILC, but they agreed on a budget only yesterday at an International Committee for Future Accelerators (ICFA) meeting in Beijing. The meeting continues today.

Scientists hope the proposed ILC will be completed by 2016, but it is yet to be decided where it will be based or how the funds would be realized.

A linear collider is a gigantic device that makes electron beams hit each other, and scientists can find unknown particles by studying the collision results.

Scientists say the collisions can create an array of new particles that could answer some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, such as the origin of mass, dark matter and dark energy.

The collider will hurl about 10 billion electrons and other particles toward each other at almost the speed of light, making them collide 1,400 times every second and creating extremely high levels of energy 500 billion electronvolts (GeV).

The energy level will increase to 1000 GeV, or 1 trillion electronvolts (TeV), in the second stage.

GeV and TeV are units of energy used in particle physics. One Tev is equal to the energy of a flying mosquito. But the proposed ILC will squeeze a TeV into a space about a million million times smaller than the size of a mosquito.

There are more than 70 colliders across the world, but most of them are not large and long enough to enable scientists to observe the basic nature of a material. Many of them, like the Beijing Electron Positron Collider (BEPC), have a ring-like structure akin to a giant tennis racket.

Difference in colliders

The proposed ILC will be different from the existing colliders, and will be built in a 31-kilometre-long tunnel that can be extended up to 50 kilometres in the second stage.

The costs, ICFA scientists said, will include $1.8 billion for site-related construction, $4.9 billion for high-tech equipment and for 2,000 scientists and engineers working on the construction.

Over 1,000 scientists and engineers from 100 universities and laboratories across two dozen countries are already working for an ILC.

Albrecht Wagner, a leading ICFA scientist, said the US National Academy of Sciences had suggested the US Government be the base for the project.

"Chinese scientists and industries have contributed a great deal to the development of an ILC by providing theoretical know-how and advanced equipment," Wagner said.

Chen Hesheng, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of High-energy Physics, said China's degree of involvement and whether it would be a candidate to host the huge project would be decided by the country's top policymakers, in accordance with its economic strength and industrial development level.

"But one thing is clear. The greater involvement of Chinese scientists in ILC will not only promote the international collider, but also boost the country's scientific capacity and train a new generation of physicists," Chen said.

(China Daily 02/09/2007 page3)