The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) made headline news in 2008 but broke down shortly after its opening. LHC operations has since resumed again in 2009 and began circling two proton particle beams at 3.5-trillion-electron-volt (TeV) in opposite directions from 19 March 2010. The aim was to allow the beams to cross paths in the magnet-lined tunnels and collide once stability has been established – if successful, history will be made.
So it was at 1200 BST on Tuesday, 20 March 2010, that the LHC research programme produced record-breaking high-energy particle collisions with beams colliding at 7 TeV. At a level 3.5 times higher than previously achieved, this was the highest energy level ever reached in a particle accelerator and marked the beginning of experiments, by particle physicists all over the world, to discover how the cosmos came into being. Nothing could stop the cheering and excitement in the LHC control room as the first collisions were confirmed. Even Ricky Martin’s announcement that he is gay could not take the headlines away from this historic moment as scientists celebrated the milestone.
With these record-shattering collision energies, the LHC programme will now begin the exploration and hunt for dark matter, new dimensions, new forces and the Higgs boson. The project will address some of the major puzzles of modern physics such as the origin of mass, the grand unification of forces and the presence of abundant dark matter in the universe. It is hoped that by producing and discovering new particles, man will gain new insights into the nature of the strong interaction and the evolution of matter in the early Universe.
The LHC will conduct four major experiments with its giant detectors – Alice, Atlas, CMS and LHCb which have now begun to gather their first physics data from the collisions. The programme will be conducted by CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear research) for 18-24 months with the objective of delivering enough data that can be analysed from the experiments. Following this period, the LHC will shutdown to carry out routine maintenance and consolidation work needed to achieve a possible design of 14 TeV events. The final result may not be known for many years given the amount of particles and data that will need to be evaluated from the sub-atomic impacts.
The LHC is a cryogenic machine operating at a very low temperature in a 27km-long tunnel under the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It collides particle beams travelling at close to the speed of light with the aim of discovering previously unseen phenomena such as the Higgs boson particle.
Do you think that running the LHC continuously for 2 years is a tall order for CERN given that it broke down in 2008? What should we expect from the result of the experiments and how useful will it be to the average person?
August 9, 2011 at 11:03 am
On March 2010, LHC set a record for high-energy collisions and these collisions allowed the ALICE experiment to further study this matter. CERN declared that the LHC will run through to the end of 2012. Reliable source adds that the energy for 2011 will be 3.5 TeV per beam and the LHC will go into a long shutdown in 2013 to prepare for higher-energy running starting in 2014.