Simulating the big bang
VDL ETG produces ultraprecision prototype parts in hard-to-process materials such as oxygen-free copper for CERN. With the ultra-precision accelerator of CERN in Switzerland, the Big bang is imitated. This photo shows the editing of CERN disks on an UPT milling machine.

Simulating the big bang

23 October 2017

VDL ETG is assisting CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) with its research into the origins of the universe, by delivering ultra-precision accelerator components and submodules that form the basis for the heart of the particle accelerator in Switzerland – a project that is both exciting and challenging.


CERN is located near Geneva in Switzerland. It was established in the 1950s and is one of the largest and most respected centres for scientific research in the world. Researchers there focus primarily on fundamental physics, investigating questions such as the structure of the universe, how it came into being and how it works. CERN has the largest and most complex scientific instruments for investigating the elemental particles of matter. These tools are used to look for explanations for the mysteries of nature we do not yet understand.

Particle accelerator

Among other things, this has led to the construction of a particle accelerator in the form of a 27 kilometre-diameter ring located at approximately 100 metres under the ground. This is the largest machine ever built. Proton clouds travel in both directions within this ring at the speed of light. At four particular points, CERN can make the particles in these two tracks collide with each other. When the atomic nuclei collide at light speed, many special particles are released. Matter (the substance that forms everything around us) is then thought to be in a state that only existed immediately after the Big Bang. One of the particles that is being examined is the Higgs particle (also referred to as the ‘God particle’). It is thought that this particle, which was predicted in theoretical models for quite some time, can confirm the theory of the creation of the universe (how did elementary particles gain their mass?). After a construction and test period of more than 30 years, this particle accelerator was recently finally started. Following a half-year shutdown due to a malfunction in the cooling system, the accelerator has been in operation again since the end of last year. Now that the existence of the Higgs particle has been demonstrated experimentally, it is also known how this particle can be made reproducible. This gives the opportunity to study this particle in further detail, something which CERN is currently working on. 

VDL participates in a number of accelerator (research) initiatives. This to explore market feasibility and product development.