Slovenian scientists and companies have been actively involved in the leading European scientific organization CERN for decades. The Slovenian team, for example, took part in the development of ATLAS, one of CERN’s key projects. CERN uses beam positioning monitor systems developed by a small Slovenian company. Strangely enough, Slovenia is not among the members of the European Organization for Nuclear Research. This is about to change.
CERN, The European Organization for Nuclear Research, hardly needs an introduction. The organization not only made a number of keystone achievements in particle physics (the most publicized is the discovery of the Higgs boson): it is also the birthplace of the worldwide web. The CERN laboratory employs over 2,000 scientists and has hosted thousands of outside collaborators from various institutions from all over the world. CERN is run by 21 European states, while another six countries are in the various pre-stages of membership.
Since April one of these countries is also Slovenia. At that time the government approved the proposal to conclude an agreement with the European Organization for Nuclear Research on becoming an associated member in pre-stage to membership. Even though the full membership is still five years ahead, the history of Slovenia's involvement in CERN is quite long.
It is somehow forgotten that CERN was established in 1954 by 12 founder states, to be exact by 11 western European nations and Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia left CERN in 1961 as the only country which ever terminated the membership in this scientific organization. A number of Slovenian scientists, however, contributed to the development of CERN in an important way. Marko Mikuž is head of the Particle Physics department of the Josef Stefan institute, the leading Slovenian scientific institution. Mikuž has been involved in the ATLAS experiment for 26 years. ATLAS is one of the four most important projects running at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Slovenian scientists led by Mikuž developed and produced low-mass power and signal cables for the Silicon Tracker, a crucial part of the ultrasensitive particle detector system used in the collider. Some of the tests for the sensor properties were carried out in the TRIGA reactor in Ljubljana. The team led by Mikuž also collaborates in the development of a new sensor system based on polycrystalline diamond detectors, specifically working on developing the simulation software and in data analysis.
Beam positioning monitoring systems are key elements of beam diagnostics in the accelerators. Small Slovenian company Instrumentation Technologies is the leading global developer of BPM measurement systems, so it comes as no surprise that its Libera technology is also used in CERN's Large Hadron Collider.
As Slovenia is beginning the process of acquiring full membership in CERN, other Slovenian measurement and electronic companies could follow Instrumentation Technologies. "By becoming a CERN member we will get access to research infrastructure and technological projects and unlimited access to educational programs. The move will also be an opportunity for the industry sector to establish itself in demanding markets by selling high-tech products," pointed out Slovenian minister for Education, Sports and Science Maja Makovec Brenčič at a press conference in April. And Slovenian scientists working in CERN will feel a bit more comfortable, said professor Mikuž: just as every full member who completely settles his bill does.