Knowledge transfer at the service of the new particle physics strategy


The new particle physics strategy for Europe highlights the path further to explore the fundamental nature of the Universe, while aiming to take technological leaps in support of this fundamental mission. This technology can have an impact well beyond particle physics, in areas as diverse as medical and biomedical technology, aerospace applications, or cultural heritage. Knowledge transfer is an essential activity to enable the technological outputs of this research to benefit society at large.

Numerous game-changing technologies that we use in our everyday lives are the unexpected offshoots of fundamental science. GPS systems, for example, would not work effectively without an understanding of the theory of relativity. On the other hand, there are many technological advances that can be anticipated when investing in publicly funded research facilities the size and complexity of CERN. On 19 June 2020, the CERN Council announced the updated European Strategy for Particle Physics, which lays out a unique and diverse scientific programme that will both provide deeper insight into the fabric of our universe and a fertile ground for training and technological innovation.

One such programme, identified as the highest priority in the new strategy, is a so-called “Higgs factory” designed to enable precise measurements of the Higgs boson and its interactions with other particles. To achieve such precision at the small scale, we must achieve much higher energies. The new strategy includes the technical and financial assessment of a 100km-circumference future hadron collider at CERN, which might eventually achieve particle collision energies up to seven times higher than the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). With today’s technologies, we are unable to meet the performance requirements of such a machine, therefore advanced accelerator technologies will be developed, with a particular focus on high-field superconducting magnets. Already, CERN’s expertise in superconductivity is being used in the medical field, with the design of a novel gantry that can reduce the size of particle therapy machines for cancer treatment. Facilitated by CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group, discussions with medical physicists are helping to develop this technology further.

Another focus of the new strategy is the promotion of stronger collaboration between the research community and industry for the development of novel detectors and associated infrastructure. Detector technologies born at CERN are already used around the world in varied domains such as medicine, aerospace and even cultural heritage. It is at CERN’s detectors that the many billions of particle collisions happen and where vast quantities of data are created. CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group have established partnerships in broad fields of application, such as autonomous driving and finance, which benefit from access to CERN’s data science expertise. The updated European strategy paves the way for exploration into new advances in computing, and their wider benefits.

Many fundamental questions about the nature of our universe remain unanswered, such as questions on the nature of dark matter and on the Standard Model of Particle Physics. What is dark matter? Why is there more matter than antimatter in the universe? How can we study the properties of neutrinos? Why is the Higgs so light? Embarking on a journey into physics beyond the Standard Model will provide further insights into the world we inhabit, at the same time that better and more complex instrumentations comes to life. Accelerators, detectors, and computing will pave the way for new discoveries and CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group will be on board to maximise their potential impact in our everyday lives.