antwerp tunnel looking like a particle accelerator

Antwerp Pedestrian Tunnel Transformed to Particle Accelerator

Photo credit: Belga photo

Until February 23, 2024, the Sint-Anna pedestrian tunnel under the Scheldt in Antwerp will be looking like a particle accelerator.

The project is developed by the University of Antwerp and the Agency for Roads and Traffic (AWV). The goal of it is to mimic the particle accelerator at CERN in Switzerland with a sound and light show to introduce society to physics and elementary particles as they pass beneath the river.


The idea came from elementary particle physics expert Maja Verstraeten of the University of Antwerp.

I regularly cycle through this tunnel, and I actually feel like a proton flashing through a particle accelerator. I thought it would be fun to mimic CERN’s particle accelerator here.

Maja verstraeten

Passers-by can activate the particle accelerator at the touch of a button. Anyone who goes in the tunnel will receive information during their descent about elementary particles and what these tiny building blocks of matter tell us about the universe and its origins. Moreover, to an exciting soundtrack, the visitors can see pink protons flashing with LED lights from the city center to the Left Bank and blue protons flashing from the Left Bank towards the city. They go faster and faster until they are almost at the speed of light. They collide and then “BOOM”, you hear and see the big bang.

“For almost two weeks you will discover everything about elementary particles in our Sint-Anna tunnel, a tunnel of 572 meters long and 32 meters deep under the Scheldt. We immediately understood the comparison with CERN in Switzerland. Students and tourists from all over also come to visit the 90-year-old and heritage-listed tunnel, day in and day out,” says Stefanie Nagels, spokesperson for the Antwerp section of the Road and Traffic Agency.