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New strategy for particle physics

Protons collide in the CMS detector generating 4 high-energy muons (red). You might expect such a result from the decay of a Higgs boson. © CERN
Protons collide in the CMS detector generating 4 high-energy muons (red). You might expect such a result from the decay of a Higgs boson. © CERN

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, adopted on 30 May a new global strategy for particle physics. The continuing exploitation of the Large Hadron Collider is one of its priorities. But the research body is also proposing to foster cooperation with the US and Japan on other initiatives.

The new European strategy for particle physics was adopted by the CERN Council at a meeting hosted by the European Commission in Brussels. This is a follow up to the previous strategy agreed in 2006. ‘It is drawing the main priorities for the next 5 to 6 years,’ explained Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN.

The new strategy is explicit. On the one hand, it is based on the success of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which allowed scientists to observe the famous Higgs boson decay last year. Clearly, CERN wants to keep its leading role in this field in the future.

On the other hand, the new strategy also goes ‘global’. ‘The scale of the facilities required by particle physics is resulting in the globalisation of the field,’ says the new strategy document. ‘The European strategy takes into account the worldwide particle physics landscape and developments in related fields and should continue to do so.’

Two potential projects are mentioned in that global perspective. The construction of an International Linear Collider (ILC) is proposed by the Japanese particle physics community and would include a large European participation. The other project aims at developing a neutrino programme with Japan and the US ‘to pave the way for a substantial European role in future long-baseline experiments’.

Strong EU support for SESAME

The European Commission and CERN have also announced their support for the construction of the ‘Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East’ project (SESAME). This is a unique joint venture launched in 2003 by countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East to build a synchrotron facility in Jordan. SESAME has nine members in the region, and several other countries are cooperating in this project with 'observer' status. The European Commission will fund the construction of the magnets of this synchrotron, an important piece of equipment which is still missing. EUR 5 million from FP7 funds will be devoted to this project.

‘The SESAME project is a unique scientific project for the Middle-East,’ said Robert-Jan Smits, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation. ‘It is also a project that shows that scientists from different countries in the region can work side by side.’

‘This is really an example of a “science for peace” project,’ added Rolf Heuer.

SESAME was established under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and is founded along similar lines to CERN. It is operated as an intergovernmental organisation. The synchrotron should start its scientific activities in 2015.

What is a synchrotron?

Advanced sources of light (like lasers and synchrotrons) have become prime factors in promoting scientific and technological progress. In recent decades, the extraordinary power of synchrotron light has made it an essential tool for studying matter on scales ranging from biological cells to atoms, using radiation from the infrared to X-rays. It has had an immense impact in fields that include industry, biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, medicine and physics. For example, exhaust catalysers for cars have been designed with the help of the analytical capabilities of synchrotrons and practically all molecular structure definitions for pharmaceutical compounds are made by synchrotrons.

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