The Boring Company could save “several billion euros” on the construction of a giant particle collider, founder Elon Musk claimed on Monday. Musk says that the director for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, asked him about using the tunnel-digging venture to build the new collider during a meeting at the Royal Society in London.
The organization published a design report for the Future Circular Collider last week. Colliders send particles around a loop at speed to smash them into each other and measure what happens. These experiments help scientists fill in the gaps of understanding about how the universe operates. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, currently the largest in the world, first switched on in September 2008 and sends particles around a 17-mile loop situated 328 feet below the ground in France and Switzerland. It’s credited with the discovery of the Higgs boson, also known as the “God particle,” in 2012. The Future Circular Collider would be nearly four times larger and could help explore phenomena that fall beyond the Standard Model of physics:
The Boring Company, founded two years ago, has been primarily focused on building tunnels for electric autonomous cars to alleviate traffic in cities. The company is focused on ways to bring down the costs of tunneling, making it more economical to build more tunnels. The tunnels are 14 feet wide, smaller than a standard single-lane car tunnel, built by digging machines that use triple the power of regular machines and are designed for continuous operation. The company’s first tunnel, a 1.14-mile demonstration in Hawthorne, California, was unveiled in December 2018 and built with a cost of $10 million. The company estimates that tunnels normally cost around $1 billion to make. These cost savings have attracted the interest of others: Musk told an interested Australian state lawmaker last week that he could build a 31-mile tunnel outside Sydney for $750 million.
A particle collider would break new ground for the company. The Future Circular Collider would enable scientists to reach energies up to 100 TeV, much more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider, enabling scientists to study how Higgs particles interact with each other while also exploring bigger particles. CERN estimates that the new construction would cost around €9 billion ($10.2 billion) to build, including around €5 billion ($5.6 billion) in civil engineering costs for the tunnel itself. The collider could start running by 2040, with a superconducting proton machine in the same tunnel costing €15 billion ($17 billion) and switching online in the 2050s.
CERN now plans to spend the next two years developing a roadmap for future particle physics study in Europe, considering the collider as part of a number of other options.
If Musk’s conversation comes to anything, it could mean The Boring Company taking on a whole lot more than just solving traffic woes.