Press release

Dundee in UK project to upgrade Large Hadron Collider

Published on 11 September 2020

The University of Dundee is one of nine UK research organisations which have embarked on a £26million project to help upgrade the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, on the French/Swiss border near Geneva

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Image shows the robot developed by the University of Dundee and partners, working inside a 74mm-aperture LHC beam screen. The robot moves autonomously along via inchworm steps while its head turns to perform the laser structuring. Image credit: CERN

Scientists, engineers and technicians are all involved in the collaboration is between the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), CERN, the Cockcroft Institute, the John Adams Institute, and eight UK Universities [Listed below]. STFC is contributing £13.05m.

CERN’s High Luminosity LHC project (HL-LHC), a large international collaboration, will upgrade the LHC by increasing the number of particle collisions by a factor of 10, allowing physicists to learn more about the properties of the Higgs boson and look for evidence of dark matter.

Phase two of the UK project, called HL-LHC-UK2, is focused on delivering essential hardware to the upgraded collider, with many parts expected to come from UK industry. Essential hardware and project management will be provided by STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory in the Liverpool City Region, in partnership with other project partners and UK industry.

Phase two of the UK project will deliver the final hardware and supporting simulations for the LHC upgrade in five crucial areas. The first phase of the project developed and delivered equipment to allow the World’s first demonstration of highly innovative ‘crab cavities’ that enable the LHC’s particle beams to be angled to increase the opportunity for collisions, along with many other machine upgrades and studies.

The University of Dundee is leading one of the five work packages, on Laser Engineered Surface Structures.

The beams in the LHC are bunches of positively charged particles (protons) whizzing around at nearly the speed of light. Due to these bunches being positively charged they attract and pull electrons, which are negatively charged, from the inside of the machine.

When the protons and electrons pass through the dipole magnets, they are steered in opposite directions due to their opposite charge, with the protons continuing in the desired path and the electrons colliding with the inside of the machine. The inside of the machine has cooled ‘beam screens’ to remove the heat of the colliding electrons, however, this causes a high load on the cooling system.

In addition, when an individual electron collides with the beam screen, several more electrons can potentially be released, an effect known as Secondary Electron Emission. This can lead to an avalanche effect in the machine to the point where there is an Electron Halo following the proton beam, colliding into the beam screens and heating them up more and more. This is an issue, especially if scientists want more bunches of protons in HL-LHC, as they risk the potential for even more secondary electrons in the machine and therefore higher heat loads, which has huge implications on cost, with more cooling plant required and high ongoing costs.

Minimising the release of secondary electrons will allow researchers to stick with the cryogenic plant that they currently have for an increase in performance.

Professor Amin Abdolvand, Chair of Functional Materials & Photonics, is leading a team of researchers at the University of Dundee who are using a novel method whereby a laser is used for in-situ precision structuring of the accelerator beam screens to prevent unwanted particles from being released into the Large Hadron Collider, severely impacting its performance upon upgrade to high luminosity. 

Professor Abdolvand said, “Our laser technique puts microscopic spikes covered in nanostructures into the surface of the beam screen and this acts to trap electrons that are being generated inside the machine. Together with CERN and a company from Switzerland, we developed a robot that is only 35mm tall and 140mm long, and can drive autonomously inside the LHC’s beam screens during shutdowns to perform the laser structuring process.

“We have proven our technique in the first phase by treating a beam screen for the Super Proton Synchrotron and tested our approach successfully. In phase two we will be treating a number of LHC beam screens, then eventually getting into the machine itself to treat the critical areas.”

Professor Mark Thomson, particle physicist and Executive Chair of STFC, is keen to ensure that the overall project helps to develop the UK’s knowledge economy. He said, “This is a significant undertaking, yet one with fantastic benefits for the UK. The aim is for this project to involve UK industry at every stage, with specialist companies being invited to bid for contracts to manufacture high-tech components for the Large Hadron Collider.”

Professor Rob Appleby, from the University of Manchester and Spokesperson for the HL-LHC-UK2 project, said, “The HL-LHC-UK2 project gives the UK a leading position in high-luminosity collider science and will significantly improve the ability of the Large Hadron Collider to enable new discoveries in the frontier of physics.”

Visible matter (you, what you see around you, and all the stars and planets in space) makes up just 5% of our Universe. The remaining 95% is thought to be dark matter (27%) and dark energy (68%) but physicists have not yet detected either. It is hoped that the increased luminosity of HL-LHC will enable researchers to find clues that could solve the mystery of dark matter.

The universities involved in the consortium are the University of Dundee, University of Huddersfield, Lancaster University, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, University of Oxford, Royal Holloway - University of London, and the University of Southampton.

The lead partner in the collaboration is the University of Manchester. Lancaster University will manage the technical co-ordination of the project.

Notes to editors

The project is funded through various contributions to a total value of £26.6million, with £13.05 million direct funding provided by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). £11.15 million funding is provided by CERN and the remainder from the Cockcroft Institute, John Adams Accelerator Institute and university contributions.

This is the second phase of HL-LHC-UK. Phase 1 is due to end in 2021 following a four-year, £8M research and development period

The project will also enable the training of the next generation of scientists and engineers, with many PhD positions and post-doctoral researcher posts. In addition, there will be funding for public engagement activities, including lectures for PhD students and a public lecture series.

HL-LHC_UK2 will create a specially commissioned book of science fiction short stories based on particle and accelerator physics, to inspire the next generation of scientist and engineers

Phase two - the HL-LHC-UK project

The UK project will deliver research and development of hardware and supporting simulations to the LHC upgrade in five areas:

  • The dynamics of high-intensity and high-energy proton beams, using mathematics and computers.
  • The development and manufacture of cryomodules to house transverse deflecting cavities, known as crab cavities, which operate at -271°C.
  • The development of novel beam diagnostics to measure the beam properties.
  • The delivery of sophisticated cold powering solutions, which allow for the transfer of electrical power from the earth’s surface and at room temperature to the LHC which is 100 meters below ground and working at below -269°C
  • In-situ laser treatment of the accelerator beam screens to prevent unwanted particles from being released into the machine which can severely impact on performance.

The HL-LHC upgrade project will deliver cutting-edge research and essential components over the next few years, enabling scientists to look for new, very rare fundamental particles, and to measure known particles like the Higgs boson with unprecedented accuracy.

It will do this by enabling the machine to deliver more collisions per second, called luminosity. This is a key performance indicator of an accelerator, as it tells you the number of particles colliding in a certain amount of time. Since discoveries in particle physics are based on collecting large amounts of data, then the greater the number of collisions and the more chance physicists have of seeing a new particle, probing physics below the world’s best collider sensitivity.

The higher number of collisions also makes measurements of particle’s properties much more accurate, for example the properties of the Higgs boson. With this upgrade, the LHC will continue to push the limits of human knowledge, enabling physicists to explore beyond the Standard Model of physics and the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism.

The project will help to increase the overall luminosity by a factor of 10, delivering 10 times more collisions than the LHC would do over the same period. Upgrading the LHC will be a challenging procedure, and relies on several breakthrough technologies currently under development, and HL-LHC-UK will leverage the UK’s skills and knowledge to make important contributions.

HL-LHC (High Luminosity LHC)

The full exploitation of the LHC is the highest priority in the European Strategy for Particle Physics), adopted by the CERN Council and integrated into the ESFRI Roadmap. The HL-LHC project funding was approved by the CERN Council in June 2014. To extend its discovery potential, the LHC will undergo a major upgrade to increase its luminosity (rate of collisions) by a factor of 10 beyond the original design value (from 300 to 3000 fb-1). As a highly complex and optimized machine, such an upgrade of the LHC must be carefully studied and requires about 10 years to implement.

The necessity to upgrade the LHC has given rise to the HL-LHC project. HL-LHC relies on several innovative technologies, representing exceptional technological challenges, such as cutting-edge 13 Tesla superconducting magnets, very compact and ultra-precise superconducting cavities for beam rotation, and 300-metre-long high-power superconducting links with zero energy dissipation.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world’s leading particle physics research laboratory. Its headquarters are in Geneva. Its Member States are currently: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Romania is a Candidate for Accession and Serbia is an Associate Member State in the Pre-stage to Membership. Pakistan and Turkey are Associate Members. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, India, Japan, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), UNESCO and the European Union have Observer status.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is part of UK Research and Innovation – the UK body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. For more information visit UK Research and Innovation.

STFC funds and supports research in particle and nuclear physics, astronomy, gravitational research and astrophysics, and space science and also operates a network of five national laboratories, including the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Daresbury Laboratory, as well as supporting UK research at a number of international research facilities including CERN, FERMILAB, the ESO telescopes in Chile and many more. Visit for more information. @STFC_Matters

Daresbury Laboratory

STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory is a vital site within the UK for Particle Accelerator Research and Development. As part of Phase One of the HL-LHC-UK2 project the Laboratory contributed to the World’s First Demonstration of using Crab Cavities with a proton beam. The laboratory is currently building a Cryomodule Prototype for CERN, one which can rotate.

The aim of this complex device is to test the principle of ‘Crab Cavities’ which can rotate the bunches of Protons in the LHC and improve the angle at which they collide. A further four Cryomodules will be built containing a total of eight Crab Cavities which will ultimately be installed on the LHC in 2024/5. Other principle partners for the project such as University of Lancaster and University of Liverpool have staff and testing facilities on the Daresbury Laboratory site. The project manager for the HL-LHC-UK2 project, Thomas Jones, is also based at Daresbury.

Accelerator Science and Technology Research Institutes

Some of the research organisations in this project are part of one of the two UK’s Accelerator Science and Technology research institutes, the Cockcroft Institute and the John Adams Institute.

About the Cockcroft Institute

(STFC/ University of Manchester/ Lancaster University/ University of Liverpool.)

The Cockcroft Institute is an international centre for Accelerator Science and Technology (AST) in the UK. It was proposed in September 2003 and officially opened by the UK Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury, in September 2006. It is a joint venture between the Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Strathclyde and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC at the Daresbury and Rutherford Appleton Laboratories). The Institute is in a purpose-built building on the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus adjacent to the Daresbury Laboratory and the Daresbury Innovation Centre and has established satellite centres in each of the participating universities.

About the John Adams Institute

(University of Oxford, University of Royal Holloway)

The John Adams Institute is an international centre for Accelerator Science and Technology (AST) in the UK. It was proposed in 2004 and is a joint venture between the University of Oxford, Royal Holloway University of London and Imperial College. The John Adams Institute is in the Denys Wilkinson Building (part of the Physics Department) at Oxford, in the Wilson Building (part of the Physics Department) at Royal Holloway and in the Blackett Laboratory building in Imperial College.


Roddy Isles

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