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Particle smasher becomes world’s most powerful

Nov. 30, 2009
Courtesy CERN
and World Science staff

Af­ter a year of trou­bles, the Large Had­ron Col­lider has be­come the world’s high­est en­er­gy par­t­i­cle ac­cel­er­a­tor, hav­ing ac­cel­er­ated its twin beams of pro­tons to an en­er­gy about 20 pe­r­cent high­er than the pre­vi­ous world rec­ord, sci­en­tists say.

“We are still com­ing to terms with just how smooth­ly” it is work­ing, said Rolf Heuer, Di­rec­tor Gen­er­al of CERN, the Eu­ro­pe­an Or­ga­niz­a­t­ion for Nu­clear Re­search near Ge­ne­va, Switz­er­land, which runs the ma­chine.

A work­er in­spects dam­age of the Large Had­ron Col­lider mag­nets  that oc­curred on Sept. 19, 2008. (Cour­te­sy CERN)


It’s “fan­tas­tic,”  he added, but “there is still a lot to do be­fore we start phys­ics in 2010. I’m keep­ing my cham­pagne on ice un­til then.”

The rec­ord-breaking pro­ton beam en­er­gy was meas­ured at 1.18 tril­lion elec­tron volts.

The de­vel­op­ments come just 10 days af­ter the par­t­i­cle smash­er restarted af­ter a year of dif­fi­cul­ties , which be­gan when the ma­chine broke down in Sep­tem­ber of last year.

First beams of pro­tons, co­re com­po­nents of atoms, were in­jected in­to the col­lider on Nov. 20, re­search­ers said. Over the fol­low­ing days, the ma­chine’s ope­r­a­tors cir­cu­lat­ed beams around the ring al­ter­nate­ly in one di­rec­tion and then the oth­er, grad­u­ally in­creas­ing the beam life­time to around 10 hours. Three days lat­er, two beams cir­cu­lat­ed to­geth­er for the first time, and the four big de­tec­tors rec­orded their first col­li­sion da­ta.

“I was here 20 years ago when we switched on CERN’s last ma­jor par­t­i­cle ac­cel­er­a­tor,” the Large Electron-Positron Col­lider, said CER­N Re­search and Tech­nol­o­gy Di­rec­tor Steve My­ers. “I thought that was a great ma­chine to op­er­ate, but this is some­thing else. What took us days or weeks with LEP, we’re do­ing in hours.” 

The first phys­ics re­search at the LHC is sched­uled for the first quar­ter of 2010, at a col­li­sion en­er­gy of 7 tril­lion elec­tron volts (3.5 tril­lion elec­tron volts per beam).


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After a year of troubles, the Large Hadron Collider has become the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy about 20 percent higher than the previous world record, scientists say. “We are still coming to terms with just how smoothly” it is working, said Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN, the European Organiz ation for Nuclear Research near Geneva, Switzerland, which runs the machine. It’s “fantastic,” but “there is still a lot to do before we start physics in 2010. I’m keeping my champagne on ice un til then,” he added. The record-breaking proton beam energy was measured at 1.18 trillion electron volts. The developments come just 10 days after the particle smasher restarted after a year of difficulties, which began when the machine broke down in September of last year. First beams of protons, core components of atoms, were injected into the collider on Nov. 20, researchers said. Over the following days, the machine’s operators circulated beams around the ring alternate ly in one direction and then the other, gradual ly increasing the beam lifetime to around 10 hours. Three days later, two beams circulated together for the first time, and the four big detectors recorded their first collision data. “I was here 20 years ago when we switched on CERN’s last major particle accelerator,” the Large Electron-Positron Collider, said CERN Research and Technology Director Steve Myers. “I thought that was a great machine to operate, but this is something else. What took us days or weeks with LEP, we’re doing in hours.” The first physics research at the LHC is scheduled for the first quarter of 2010, at a collision energy of 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam).