Supporters say the billion dollar facility will help improve understanding of the origins of matter, but critics warn it could be more expensive than planned

(From Caixin Online)

By staff reporters Zhang Yan and Yu Dawei

China plans to invest US$6 billion to build the world’s largest particle collider to get a foot in the door of experimental physics dominated by European and American research labs, but some scientists warn it could be a wasteful undertaking.

One of world's biggest particle collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research
One of world’s biggest particle colliders at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research

The blueprint for what scientists call a super collider, an underground facility to smash subatomic particles at high speeds, was drafted in 2014 by scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing. The project, dubbed the “Higgs Factory,” aims to build a facility capable of generating millions of Higgs boson particles, which physicists say form the building blocks of the universe.

Scientists at IHEP have completed the design for an underground ring with a circumference of 50 to 100 kilometers that can smash together electrons and positrons, state media reported in October. If built, it would be at least twice the size of the world’s largest particle accelerator, a 27-kilometer circular tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border.

The plan is yet to be approved by the central government, but scientists are optimistic that research needed to build the facility can start in late 2016. Construction of the first phase of this Circular Electron Positron Collider is expected to begin in 2021 near Qinhuangdao, a port city in the northern province of Hebei, scientists said.

The second phase of the project, which will upgrade the facility to a proton–proton collider, is set to start by 2040.

The lab could help the country “leap to a leadership position in an important frontier in basic science,” wrote David Gross, an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate, in a commentary in the Wall Street Journal in September. Read more

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