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We made 50,000 tonnes of steel that is helping to solve the mysteries of the universe.

The science behind the steel

Our steel is in the particle accelerator that helped with the discovery of 'the God particle', resulting in a Nobel Prize for Physics in 2013.

In early July 2012, the scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) proudly announced that they had made a breakthrough discovery in understanding the origins of the universe.

The team of experts told the world’s media that they believed they had found the subatomic particle, the ‘Higgs boson’ commonly referred to as the ‘God particle’, that confirms our understanding of how the universe works.

For ArcelorMittal this was great news, because 50,000 tonnes of our steel was produced by Flat Carbon Europe to build the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the particle accelerator that fires trillions of protons around a 27km tunnel at 99.99% of the speed of light.

The CERN tender, issued in 1998, called for 50,000 tonnes of magnetic steel with strictly identical properties. And thanks to close collaboration between ArcelorMittal’s research and development (R&D), technology and commercial teams, our company won the contract by offering a new, high thickness magnetic steel guaranteeing a weak coercive field. The product was called Magnetil®; ArcelorMittal’s Philippe Harlet, part of the R&D team in Liege, led the team that created this new, unique steel.   

Initially, Magnetil® was provided for the Large Electron-Position (LEP) collider, which was in the CERN tunnel from 1983 to 2000. Then, in 2009 the team was contacted again and supplied Magnetil® for the super LHC project, the LEP’s successor. 

Now, the CERN team is discussing the possibility of creating an even bigger collider, with an 80km tunnel that would look into physics mysteries such as how gravity works on a particle level.

Take a walk through the actual LHC at CERN

ArcelorMittal hopes to be involved in any new development at CERN, given its close involvement in this major project. In fact, according to global head of research and development Greg Ludkovsky, only top performance magnetic steel could ever meet the CERN team’s requirements.

“The material used had to have a high initial permeability. And it has to be mechanically strong enough to be used as a structural component to provide rigidity” explains Greg.

The overall goal in the production process for this groundbreaking project was to achieve a very particular crystallographic structure and texture in the magnets’ active part; this in turn would maximise the magnetic strength of the magnets.

Further research and follow-up experiments in the LHC in March 2013 confirmed that the particle found was indeed the Higgs Boson or 'the God particle'.

On 8 October 2013, Peter W. Higgs and François Englert who had originally, independently, proposed the idea of the particle in the 1960s, jointly won the Nobel prize in physics.

ArcelorMittal’s work to develop this product for CERN means that a unique magnetic steel has been created that is now available to any other project in atomic physics. With accelerator projects being developed all over the world – ArcelorMittal has also provided steel to such projects in Canada and Russia – the chances of our company providing the steel for another landmark scientific discovery are greater thanks to the work done by the industrial, research and development and commercial teams.


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