My question involves my lack of understanding present in my thought experiment, so I am looking for corrections in my language or mental model.

At the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) collisions happen inside the ring at a predetermined spot covered in detectors. This inspection area is showered with particles. From my understanding the atoms or protons are annihilated into fragments of mass/energy that quickly dissipate into thermal energy as they travel through the detectors.

When colliding heavier nuclei like lead, I would imagine that there is a chance for some of these collision "fragments" to fuse before dissipating. Or for the particles to spontaneously create a proton. These protons are very corrosive to any metal surface it could come in contact with.

My question is three fold.

Is my mental model correct and there a chance of this fusion happening?

Wouldn't this contaminate the "inspection area" affecting the results of the next collision?

  • $\begingroup$ Partly I think you over estimate just how many atoms are in a few million events even. Good luck finding one… $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


Yes, all these processes happen, a lot, and typically go under the name of "radiation damage". This is why these detectors are routinely upgraded every few years - by that time a lot of e.g. pixels in the silicon tracker are dead from too much radiation damage. Also, this is one of the primary challenges as scientists are building the upgrade to the LHC, the High Luminosity LHC, where radiation hardness is key to selecting detector materials.


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