Particle accelerators are devices to accelerate charged particles to very high energies, before bringing them to interaction with fixed targets or to collision with each other in a collider. In a particle accelerator, particles circulate in ultra vacuum tubes, accelerated through high frequency radio cavities and kept in position with high precision using powerful magnet systems. The extreme conditions of the LHC have led to the developments of many breakthroughs in the domains of underlying technologies such as accelerators, magnets and cryogenics and pushed existing technologies to its limits.
In experimental and applied particle physics, a particle detector, also known as a radiation detector, is a device used to detect, track, and/or identify particles, such as produced by nuclear decay, cosmic radiation, or reactions in a particle accelerator. Radiation detectors are also used to measure the energy of particles. Driven by needs of many different experiments carried out over the last 50 years and in particular for the LHC, CERN today is at the forefront of detector technology development for many different applications inside and outside high energy physics.
Current accelerator systems and particle physics experiments at CERN are extremly challenging in terms of handling huge amounts of data in very short time under tough radiation conditions. In particular for the LHC, that has led to the development of extremly fast radiation sensors and readout electronics, resulting in chip and sensor technologies available for use outside high energy physics such as medical imaging, material research and instrumentation for lifescience.
Information Technology (IT or ICT) is most essential in modern particle physics. CERN has been the main driving force for many IT developments over the last few decades, such as the handling of huge amounts of data across global networks using GRID technologies and the World Wide Web, without that global economy can't be imagined.
The multidisciplinary technology context of CERN and the extremly challenging operational conditions of accelerators and physics expirements in particular for the LHC required and still require the development of innovative solutions for the treatment and processing of materials to reach particular properties unachievable with methods available from outside.
The design and the construction of accelerator elements or components of particle physics experiments in particular for the LHC are often accompanied by the development of specific mechanical systems or tools that provide also solutions for many engineering problems outside high energy physics.