The Large Hadron Collider Is Back After Staying Offline For 3 Years – And It Has Immediately Set A World Record

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After 3 years of maintenance and upgrades, the Large Hadron Collider has broken its own record. In preparation for its third major run of experiments, the particle accelerator has created the most energetic beams of protons ever made by humans. The particles went racing around the 17-mile (27 km) tunnel near Geneva, Switzerland, with an energy of 6.8 trillion electronvolts (TeV). 

“This, of course, is an important day for us… but it’s only the start of a very long commissioning period which [will] bring us to actually collide the two beams for the experiments and provide the highest-energy collisions,” says Jörg Wenninger, head of the LHC beam operation section and LHC machine coordinator. Beams should start colliding within a couple of months, he says.

The LHC broke its first record (and became the world’s most powerful particle accelerator) in 2009, just after it began operation. The beam of protons was accelerated to an energy of just over 1 TeV, beating out Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator near Chicago, Illinois.

“Then one year later, we pushed to 3.5 TeV,” Wenninger says. After setting yet another record, LHC was shut down for maintenance and to consolidate some of the magnets that control the proton beams. “This allowed us in 2015 to reach 6.5 TeV, again a new world record,” he says. That satisfied the particle physicists who rely on LHC data for three years. During the second long shutdown, which has just ended, researchers and technicians “did further consolidation of the safety system of the magnet.” Those tweaks enabled today’s new record and brought the team “very close to the designed energy of the LHC, which is 7 TeV,” he says.

Large Hadron Collider Restarts After 3 Years of Upgrades: Particle  Collisions at World-Record Energy Levels

Several of the experiments at the accelerator have massively increased the amount of data they’re capable of collecting.

“The machines and facilities underwent major upgrades during the second long shutdown of CERN’s accelerator complex,” says Mike Lamont, Director for Accelerators and Technology at CERN, the organization that runs the accelerator. “The LHC itself has undergone an extensive consolidation program and will now operate at an even higher energy and, thanks to major improvements in the injector complex, it will deliver significantly more data to the upgraded LHC experiments.”

The capacity of other instruments has increased by a factor of 50. Researchers across the world will use that data to learn more about physics.

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