Geneva, 5 April 2015. After a minor hiccup around two weeks ago requiring repair of a short circuit in one of the super cooled magnets that power the particle accelerator, proton beams were fired today for the first time in two years in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The LHC is the most powerful particle accelerator in the world and is at the forefront of answering fundamental questions about matter and the universe.
Today at 10.41am, a proton beam was fired in the 27-kilometer ring, followed at 12.27pm by a second beam rotating in the opposite direction. These beams circulated at their injection energy of 450 GeV. Over the coming days, operators will check all systems before increasing energy of the beams.
“Today, CERN’s heart beats once more to the rhythm of the LHC”, said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer.
The upgrading of the LHC was a Herculean task. Some 10,000 electrical interconnections between the magnets were consolidated. Magnet protection systems were added, while cryogenic, vacuum and electronics were improved and strengthened. This time around the beams will be set up so they produce more collisions by bunching protons closer together. This will produce more information for scientists to analyse increasing the chances of finding answers to profound questions about matter and the universe.
“After two years of effort, the LHC is in great shape,” said CERN Director for Accelerators and Technology, Frédérick Bordry. “But the most important step is still to come when we increase the energy of the beams to new record levels.” It will operate at almost double the energy of last time – at 6.5 TeV per beam. With 13 TeV proton-proton collisions expected before summer, the LHC experiments will soon be exploring uncharted territory.
The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, dark matter, antimatter and quark-gluon plasma are all on the menu this time. After the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 by the ATLAS and CMS teams, physicists will be putting the Standard Model of particle physics to its most stringent test yet. Heaven knows what they might find.