Science: LHC smashes particle collision record

The Large Hadron Collider has woken from its winter slumber with a bang. Just after midnight local time on 5 April, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, based near Geneva, Switzerland, shattered its own world record by smashing protons together with a combined energy of 8 teraelectronvolts (TeV).

The previous world record was 7 TeV, the energy at which the LHC operated from March 2010 to last October. Then, protons zipped around the accelerator’s 27-kilometre-long loop at speeds high enough for each to carry 3.5 TeV, so that collisions between pairs carried an energy of 7 TeV.

See also: Photos: A tour of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

That was enough energy for two of the LHC’s experiments to provide hints of the Higgs boson, the long-sought particle that would complete the standard model of particle physics, and explain how all other particles get their masses.

Now, with protons carrying 4 TeV apiece, the LHC has a better chance of creating the elusive beasts it was designed to find. According to a CERN statement, research director Sergio Bertolucci said:

(Image: Valeriane Duvivier/CERN)

At the new, higher energy, the LHC should produce more Higgs bosons than before – though it will also create more background processes that could mimic the Higgs. It will also stand a better chance of seeing still-theoretical particles predicted by supersymmetry, an extension of the standard model that suggests every particle has a heavier “superpartner” that will show up only at high energies.

The LHC will run at 8 TeV until the end of this year, when it will shut down for over a year. When it reopens in 2014, the protons will smash with combined energies of 13 TeV.

Lisa Grossman, New Scientist

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