In 14 years, China may become the particle collider capital of the world. Scientists in China have been working towards building a 52-kilometer underground particle collider that would smash electrons and positrons more precisely than CERN's 27-kilometer Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

The purpose of the underground ring is to study the Higgs boson particle in closer detail than ever before. By 2028, China's "Higgs factory" may be ready to understand details of the Higgs particle never before understood.

China's Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing is the leader of this plan, which incorporates international collaborators as well. Scientists are working quietly on the project but with lots of momentum, for this electron-positron collider isn't the limit. It's a mere stepping-stone to China's later goal: a super proton-proton collider, which they want to build in the same tunnel.

Electron-positron collisions are more precise than those of hadron colliders because the objects colliding are already fundamental particles. Hadron colliders smash together protons, which are made up of fundamental particles called quarks.  

2028 is not so far. IHEP director Yifang Wang, at the International Conference on High Energy Physics, explained that the purpose of the deadline was to encourage government support. Skipping immediately to building the proton-proton collider would mean that China wouldn't be the collider champion until 2035. While funding is not yet in place, the electron-positron collider can, according to physicists, be built by 2028 even if international funding is not available.

According to experimental physicist Ian Shipsey, of the University of Oxford, China would not have been so ambitious ten years ago. But recent successful experiments have done much to raise the confidence of Chinese scientists.

Despite that confidence, China is a long way from building its huge collider. According to Guido Tonelli, a particle physicist formerly from CERN, China does not have enough scientists in its "high-energy-physics community", and therefore would not be able to produce the collider without ample international support.

Wang says they will go ahead with the project with or without a large host of international collaborators. If they receive a lot of support, he says, they will expand the collider to 80-kilometers. But waiting for support is out of the question. The next two years are dedicated to designing the machine, and then budget and location issues will be hashed out. Wang believes construction of the collider could begin in five years.

Shipsey says that with the world's resources and funds, only one super collider will ever be built. "The world will have to work together to locate it in the best place" for the super collider to be built quickly. If it is not an international collaboration, one country will emerge victorious and no other will hope to compete, Shipsey says. 

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