A machine that will investigate the forces that hold matter together finally has a home.
On Thursday, the US Department of Energy announced that the long-awaited Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a type of particle accelerator, will be constructed at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.
Scientists use particle colliders to study the origins of our universe and investigate the makeup of atoms. The design for the new machine calls for an underground ring that steers protons and electrons toward one another at nearly the speed of light.
The new Electron-Ion Collider will replace the RHIC at Brookhaven; the laboratory plans to permanently shutter the RHIC in 2024. The old machine took eight years and an estimated $617 million to build. The new one is expected cost between $1.6 billion and $2.6 billion, according to the Department of Energy, and be operational by 2030.
Scientists already know that protons are made up of even tinier particles called quarks, which are glued together by particles called gluons. The force that holds these quarks together is more than 100 times more powerful than the electromagnetic force that powers x-rays, radio waves, and visible light. It’s the strongest and most mysterious force in nature.
Scientists hope the EIC scanner will give them a better understanding of how quarks and gluons are arranged and why they’re bound so tightly.