In this interesting animation sponsored by CERN in Geneva, produced in collaboration with TED-Ed, they explain why the use of vacuum is so crucial for microparticle research.
It starts with an important question: is it possible to create a perfect vacuum? Our universe is indeed, as we know, full of matter and energy, even though many of us think of deepest space as empty.
A multitude of particles and electromagnetic radiation hover in our galaxies. And even in the largest intergalactic space, there is at least one hydrogen atom per cubic meter. There are even remnants of the Big Bang radiation.
Despite this, for research purposes it is important to create the vacuum, and it is important that it happens at CERN, in particle accelerators, where particle beams must be able to roam at the speed of light for up to ten hours at a time without hitting other atoms.
So, there are hundreds of vacuum pumps working for weeks to keep gas and debris out of the experiments’ tubes.
Yet even with a near-perfect vacuum there remains a minimal vacuum fluctuation that still imparts enormous amounts of energy to the electromagnetic fields.
Far from considering this scholarly work something that remains within the four walls of a laboratory, the implications of such experiments carried out thanks to the vacuum may have a practical as well as theoretical impact on our daily lives.