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Studying "Little Bangs" at the LHC

As well as colliding protons, the LHC will also recreate the conditions of the early Universe - just after the Big Bang - by colliding lead nuclei head-on at energies never before reached in the laboratory.

The ALICE experiment, whose name is derived from 'A Large Ion Collider Experiment', will study these collisions in detail revealing the behaviour of the super-dense matter that existed for the first instants of the Universe's life.

Understanding energetic collisions between lead nuclei is a task requiring many simultaneous observations of many different kinds of particle. To accomplish this, several specialised sub-detectors will be built into the overall ALICE detector. These will be built in and around the large magnet now serving the L3 experiment at LEP.

The ALICE Collaboration currently consists of more than 800 physicists and engineers from 73 institutes in 27 countries.

The link between L3 and ALICE is also apparent in the long-established tradition of Sino-Russian collaboration in crystal manufacture which will result in Lead Tungstate crystals to measure the energy spectrum of photons.

This large area prototype of an ALICE Muon Spectrometer pad chamber is being built by a group from St. Petersburg

Muons are particles that are also very important in deciphering lead-ion collisions and ALICE will be equipped with a dedicated muon spectrometer to measure them. It is being built by a collaboration of several institutes from many countries.
The dipole magnet, for instance, a key element of the muon spectrometer, is a joint effort of the JINR and CERN groups. And the sensitive elements that will measure muon tracks are being produced by institutes in France, India, Italy and Russia.

ALICE's dipole magnet, 8 metres high and weighing some 800 tons


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