How to build a collider on the moon

(ORDO NEWS) — Fast forward 150 years in your mind and imagine an engineering structure of unprecedented proportions – a particle accelerator snake wrapping around the moon.

It sounds too bold, but physicists who propose to create such an instrument are not in a hurry and are counting on the middle of the next century.

Colliders accelerate beams of particles, usually protons or electrons, to enormous speeds in order to slam them into each other (or into a target) and see what happens. The largest – the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – uses a ring accelerator, but others can be direct, linear.

In any case, the energy of collisions creates a whole scattering of exotic particles that are registered by detectors. The higher the energy, the more massive fragments appear – for example, the Higgs boson.

The emergence of even more powerful colliders could lead to the discovery of other particles that will help scientists unify the disparate areas of fundamental physics and give a more complete and holistic view of our world.

The ring enclosing the moon will be able to accelerate particles up to energies of 14 quadrillion electron volts – thousands of times higher than the same LHC, the current record holder.

“There are a number of big unsolved problems in particle physics, and the theoretical ways to solve them are almost exhausted,” adds scientist James Beecham from the American Duke University, who is actively promoting the idea of ​​a “lunar collider”.

Perhaps with its help we will find something comparable in value to the Higgs boson – the particle that gives mass to other particles – and perhaps something more. We can even explore what happened in the Universe in the first moments after the Big Bang. And although at first glance such a construction seems like a completely unbearable task, Beecham and his associates are already planning the main stages.

An instrument of this size would open up entirely new areas of particle physics and possibly string theory.

STEP 1. Send a team of scientists and engineers to the Moon for a detailed survey. It is necessary to find out which local materials can be used in construction, and which will have to be delivered from Earth. The most important thing to understand is whether high temperature superconducting magnets can be fabricated in situ.

Such magnets do not require extreme cooling costs and can operate at “moderate” temperatures of the order of -170 °C. It is also desirable to make do with local resources and equipment assembled on the Moon.

A drilling rig can weigh 1,200 tons, and meanwhile, launching cargo even into near-Earth orbit today costs NASA about $1,500 per kilogram. You can calculate yourself; we only add that the cost of the Apollo program in terms of current prices amounted to about 280 billion dollars.

STEP 2. Think about how exactly the collider will pass over the lunar surface. You can cover the sphere anywhere, not necessarily at the equator. Other options may be preferable – for example, if they avoid large elevation changes.

STEP 3. Prepare the production infrastructure. At the first stage, the most important task will be the extraction of building materials. “For the Lunar Collider, iron-based high-temperature superconductors are best,” adds Beecham, “because there is enough of this metal and it is available.”

STEP 4. Drill tunnels of the ring accelerator. The main problem here may be the temperature differences characteristic of the Moon: superconducting magnets need strictly controlled conditions.

“The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures on the Moon is so great that at least half of the time it will interfere with the work of the magnets,” Beecham continues.

That is why the tunnels should be built as deep as possible – perhaps no more than 100 m below the surface. At depth, conditions are more stable, and the collider will be isolated from diurnal temperature fluctuations, which will save resources on cooling.

STEP 5. Find a power source. The giant collider will require so much energy that all the nuclear power plants currently operating on Earth together will provide it at best by 10%.

The plant will need terawatts to operate (for comparison: all of humanity consumes 15 TW per day). It is not possible to build such a powerful reactor on the Moon, so scientists are looking at using a Dyson sphere or similar structure to collect solar energy.

STEP 6. Build a collider and infrastructure for research. Today, scientists working with the LHC, in most cases, do not come there personally, but use remote means of observation. Most likely, for the “lunar collider” other options will be too complicated and costly.

But sending huge amounts of collected data to Earth can also become a serious problem. In addition, housing and work space will be needed for the team directly responsible for the operation and maintenance of the facility.

How to build a collider on the moon 2

What is a Dyson sphere?

British-American physicist Freeman Dyson came up with an interesting concept in 1960. In his article, the scientist described a futuristic engineering structure – “a hollow ball built around the Sun.” Theoretically, such a structure, covered with mirrors and solar panels, would be able to collect a huge part of the energy that a star radiates.

But since the creation of such a sphere would deprive both the Earth and the entire solar system of light, a more restrained version of the idea soon appeared – building a ring or launching a swarm of devices that transmit energy to a receiving station, for example, on the Moon.

As we can see, there are a lot of traps and pitfalls for an engineering megaproject. However, James Beecham is already glad that the new grand idea has attracted brilliant minds who are now struggling to solve problems on the way to the realization of the dream of scientists: “Take those who are really burning with returning to the Moon,” says the physicist, “and those who are planning new space projects for the benefit of all mankind. And let them focus on the “lunar collider” – everyone will benefit from this.


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