(ORDO NEWS) — The European Large Hadron Collider has re-fired its proton beams at unprecedented levels of energy after a three-year shutdown for maintenance and upgrades.
It took only a few days of tuning for the pilot proton beams to reach a record energy level of 6.8 teraelectronvolts, or TeV. This exceeds the previous record of 6.5 TeV, which was set by the LHC in 2015 at the beginning of the second run of the collider.
The new level is “very close to the LHC design energy of 7 TeV,” Jörg Wenninger, Head of the LHC Beam Operations Section and LHC Facility Coordinator at CERN, said today in a video announcing the event.
When the collider, located on the border of France and Switzerland, resumes honest scientific work, probably in a few months, the LHC’s international team plans to tackle puzzles that could steer physics theories in a new direction.
So far, Wenninger and his colleagues are beaming individual beams of relatively few protons through the collider’s 17-mile (27 km) underground ring of superconducting magnets.
Before starting high-energy collisions, engineers want to make sure that the collider can be safely operated after the changes made during the shutdown and avoid a costly repair operation like the one that had to be done shortly after the LHC was first powered up in 2008.
“During the second long shutdown of the CERN accelerator facility, the machines and facilities underwent a major upgrade,” CERN Director of Accelerators and Technology Mike Lamont explained in a press release.
“The LHC itself has gone through an extensive consolidation program and will now operate at even higher energies, and thanks to significant improvements in the injector complex, it will provide significantly more data for upgraded experiments at the LHC.”
During the first launch of the LHC, scientists collected data that led to the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012.
The second launch, which lasted from 2015 to 2018, resulted in an increase in energy and luminosity, but there were no discoveries at the Higgs level. The upcoming third launch is scheduled until 2026.
Over the past three years, the LHC team has upgraded the magnetic system to narrow the focus of the beams, producing many more collisions per second.
The analysis software has also been upgraded to analyze 30 million particle beam crossings per second. Two new experiments, FASER and [email protected], have been added to the LHC’s existing line of detectors to search for phenomena beyond the Standard Model of Physics.
Such phenomena could shed light on the nature of dark matter, which is more plentiful than the ordinary matter we see in the universe. They can confirm the existence of as yet unseen supersymmetric particles, or extra dimensions, or microscopic black holes, or the fifth fundamental force of nature.
“I’ve been hunting for the fifth force for as long as I’ve been a particle physicist,” Sam Harper, a member of the CMS detector team at the LHC, told the BBC.
“Perhaps this is the same year.”
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