Large Hadron Collider photographs
by David Cowlard



Photographer David Cowlard has sent us these construction photos of the world's most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, which was switched on by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research this week.


The collider was constructed in a 27km tunnel, 100m underground on the border of France and Switzerland, near Geneva.


Cowlard took the photographs in June last year.


"I visited the facility in the final stages of commissioning," he says. "Testing had started on some parts but now the collider is operational most areas are now closed to everyone except the people directly involved in it’s running."


The following information is from David Cowlard:



At the beginning of June 2007 photographer David Cowlard visited one of the largest and most important scientific experiments yet conceived. Above: View upwards from the underground CMS cavern showing fire extinguisher nozzles that would fill the cavern with breathable foam within seconds.


The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) has ‘switched on’ the Large Hadron Collider (LCH). This is the largest particle collider in the world and is set to examine some of the major questions in physics. Currently only 4% of what makes up the Universe is known…the other 96% remains to be examined.


The Collider has been constructed in a 27km tunnel, 100m underground straddling the borders of France and Geneva/Switzerland. The project, a truly global experiment, has involved thousands of scientists and engineers from around the world. Thousands more will be involved in analysing the data which will be produced. Below: Section of the 27km tunnel that straddles the French and Swiss borders near Geneva and shows the dipole magnet and superconducting cable housing.


The LHC will collide protons at almost the speed of light, 40 million times a second, recreating the conditions a fraction of a billionth of a second after the Big Bang. The subsequent collisions will be detected and monitored by four experiments, each contained within caverns at different points around the circumference of the tunnel. They will employ various ways to control the direction of the particles (magnets and solenoids etc) and incorporate a huge amount of sensors. One of the detectors has been described as ‘something like a 700 tonne digital camera’. (Particle Physicist Dr Brian Cox)


To create the conditions of ‘super conductivity’ the specially created ‘cable’ needs to be cooled to a temperature of almost absolute zero or 1.7 degrees Kelvin (-271 degrees C)!! This involves the use of liquid helium in the largest cryogenics plants outside of oil fields. (6000 tonnes of something that weighs nothing). Below: the 100m below-ground entrance to the cavern that houses the CMS experiment.


In addition to the creation of this facility the need to analyse extraordinary amounts of data has meant that there is huge computing power needed. Some of which is on-site but a large proportion of the analysis will be carried out by scientists around the world linked by ‘the grid’ with download speeds of 8Gb/sec.

Below: final assembly of a section of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Experiment. The CMS detector will comprise of 100 million detecting elements and will look for signs of new particles and phenomena at 40 million times per second. The CMS will be situated 100m underground at the French village of Cessy.




Posted on Friday September 12th 2008 at 1:48 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Zenza

    One of the pictures remind me of ‘Stargate’, ahhaha.

    This thing is amazing! Thanks for the cool post Dezeen.

  • One

    Ryota Atarashi took shots of similar concept. Impresive hidden urbanity!

  • Tyler.

    Large Nothing Special Inside…

  • homage to price

    best art project so far!!!!

    This should be an homage to Cedric price

  • I GREATLY appreciate this nod to the design of the ultra-cool (in more ways than one!) Large Hadron Collider. I’ve been following the development and construction of this project for years, and I’m so excited that finally they’re getting ready to get some real science done … the “Chicken Littles” notwithstanding.

    The LHC may or may not prove the existence of the Higgs Boson, but it will most surely solve at least a few more pieces of the puzzle that is reality.


  • Tells it like it is

    So much better than the latest starchitect crap.

  • If this can be built, used, and the data analyzed, why can’t we put solar panels in the American Southwest? Our priorities are not right.

  • Michael

    Maggie, do not confuse Scientific research with the expensive solar panel market. As solar panels get cheaper and more efficient, we will consume more of them. However this should not stop important research at CERN. Currently their joint project with ITER on fusion power is making that energy a reality. The sooner they get fusion energy generation under way, the sooner our entire planet’s energy problems are solved. They can create enough energy in safe 3 millisecond bursts of hydrogen isotopes to power Europe. The scientific community is hoping to make major breakthroughs on the scale of 1 million times more powerful energy plants over conventional methods. The direct benefits of understanding gravity particles and massive magnetic fields would include protecting Earth from galactic catastrophes. I am all for advancing our knowledge of the vast unknown given that it will benefit all of us in so many ways, not just a few of us in the desert.

  • martincho cho

    I believe the planet will become a black hole, with its center in peacefull neutral “formally known” Switzerland. (as if theire nazi gold wouldn`t be a black hole of it`s own)

  • it’s huge!

  • Azeem

    Great pics DEZEEN !!.
    & how many of the results from the experiments will be known to the public?

  • Dave

    Azeem, everything that is done at CERN is open source. That is one of their big things, that all information is available to everyone.

  • Mazhar

    Great work by CERN. I wish if I could visit and see the results of a collision on the spot. It is my dream.


    If the gentleman in one of the photographs is planning to use his bicycle to race along the protons, he will have to try really hard!

  • This is the most powerful and the largest project in the history of human science, which has shaken the head of the whole world, with it’s life taking threats. But everything went fine.
    Moreover, a TV news channel claimed that the machine stopped working just after a few hours of it started. If this is right, it’s a matter of pity.
    I think these are all such rumours are meant to spoil the status of biggest machine ever :)