Large Hadron Collider Set To Hit 7 Tera-Electron Volts

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Large Hadron Collider Set To Hit 7 Tera-Electron Volts

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will for the first time collide particles at an energy of 7 tera-electron volts (TeV), or 3.5 TeV per beam, on March 30, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said on its website.

The world’s most powerful atom smasher accelerated its proton beams to 3.5 TeV per beam on March 19, but no collisions were practiced then.

“Between now and March 30, the LHC team will be working with 3.5 TeV beams to commission the beam control systems and the systems that protect the particle detectors from stray particles. All these systems must be fully commissioned before collisions can begin,” CERN said.

The LHC is to operate at half its design energy – 7 TeV – until late 2011, after which it will be shut down for about a year to then upgrade to its full design energy of 14 TeV.

“With two beams at 3.5 TeV [each], we’re on the verge of launching the LHC physics program. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do before collisions,” CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers, said Tuesday.

“Just lining the beams up is a challenge in itself: it’s a bit like firing needles across the Atlantic and getting them to collide half way,” he said.

Speaking at a March 8 press conference, CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer said the LHC could start generating its first scientific breakthroughs into elusive dark matter even while operating at half-capacity.

Heuer told reporters then that by now, 5% of the universe can be “explained by the standard model,” but if scientists “can detect and understand dark matter, our knowledge will expand to encompass 30% of the universe, a huge step forward.”

The $5.6 billion international LHC project has involved more than 2,000 physicists from hundreds of universities and laboratories in 34 countries since 1984. Over 700 Russian physicists from 12 research institutes have taken part.

The collider, located 100 meters under the French-Swiss border with a circumference of 27 km (17 miles), enables scientists to shoot subatomic particles round an accelerator ring at almost the speed of light, channeled by powerful fields produced by superconducting magnets.

In order to fire beams of protons round the vast underground circular device, the entire ring must be cooled by liquid helium to minus 271 degrees C, just two degrees above absolute zero.

By colliding particles in front of immensely powerful detectors, scientists hope to detect the Higgs boson, nicknamed the “God particle,” which was hypothesized in the 1960s to explain how particles acquire mass. Discovering the particle could explain how matter appeared in the split-second after the Big Bang.

Experiments using the LHC were suspended in September 2008 shortly after a successful start, due to a malfunction of two superconducting magnets and a subsequent helium leak into the tunnel housing the device.

Work to repair and upgrade the collider after the breakdown cost almost $40 million and took more than a year. A system to protect it from such accidents, named the Quench Protection System, was installed, and the first beams were injected into the LHC on November 20 last year.

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