CERN approves 62-mile super-collider: now it just needs $23bn to pay for it

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, more commonly known as CERN, has approved an ambitious plan to build a 62-mile super-collider in the pursuit of expanding humanity's knowledge of physics. The endorsement came from the CERN Council today, June 19, with costs expected to hit a minimum of €21 billion (approx. $23.5 billion). CERN, of course, is best known for its work involving the Large Hadron Collider.

The CERN Council's approval of the plan opens the door for the additional — and quite substantial — work that will need to take place to make the super-collider a reality. Once it comes to fruition, however, this new machine will help physicists understand Higgs boson properties; it will collide electrons with their antimatter positrons.

As expected, this eventual super-collider will be built near CERN's Geneva location in an underground tunnel. Before that can happen, however, experts must design the new collider and determine whether the design is feasible. CERN Council details a plan that will ultimately take place in two phases, the first of which will be more immediate and will involve the electron-positron collider.

Decades later, however, this collider would be replaced with a more substantial collider capable of 100 teraelectronvolts — a huge uptick from the Large Hadron Collider's 16 TeV capabilities. That project is a distant dream, however, and the technology needed to pull this off hasn't even been developed at this time.

The entire process will be a lengthy one, with construction on the 62-mile tunnel and related machine anticipated to start in 2038. This, of course, is going to require substantial funding which is not yet in place. Existing funds from member states cannot cover the costs of this ambitious plan, meaning CERN may need to form a global organization that ropes in other nations willing to contribute, including ones with existing big physics efforts like the US and Japan.

In the meantime, construction is still taking place on the High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider, which is essentially just an upgrade to the existing LHC. Assuming the super-collider project can proceed in coming decades, it will be an unprecedented development in humanity's effort to uncover new secrets about the universe.