From a cavern 100 metres below a small Swiss village, the 7000-tonne ATLAS detector is probing for fundamental particles
ATLAS is one of two general-purpose detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It investigates a wide range of physics, from the search for the Higgs boson to extra dimensions and particles that could make up dark matter. Although it has the same scientific goals as the CMS experiment, it uses different technical solutions and a different magnet-system design.
Beams of particles from the LHC collide at the centre of the ATLAS detector making collision debris in the form of new particles, which fly out from the collision point in all directions. Six different detecting subsystems arranged in layers around the collision point record the paths, momentum, and energy of the particles, allowing them to be individually identified. A huge magnet system bends the paths of charged particles so that their momenta can be measured.
The interactions in the ATLAS detectors create an enormous flow of data. To digest the data, ATLAS uses an advanced “trigger” system to tell the detector which events to record and which to ignore. Complex data-acquisition and computing systems are then used to analyse the collision events recorded. At 46 m long, 25 m high and 25 m wide, the 7000-tonne ATLAS detector is the largest volume particle detector ever constructed. It sits in a cavern 100 m below ground near the main CERN site, close to the village of Meyrin in Switzerland.
More than 3000 scientists from 174 institutes in 38 countries work on the ATLAS experiment (February 2012).
Take a virtual tour of ATLAS