The European Large Hadron Collider is smashing records literally and figuratively after a major technical upgrade. The LHC team reported on Thursday, May 21st that two beams of protons were successfully focused onto each other at the four collision points spaced around the LHC’s tunnel.
The scientists noted the combined energy of the collisions was 13 trillion electronvolts, easily surpassing the prior record of eight trillion reached during the LHC’s first run in 2012 and early 2013.
Revamped LHC still in testing mode
Keep in mind that CERN’s newly retooled LHC is still in testing mode, which means the proton beams are very sparse. When the Geneva-based LHC Is fully tested and ready for experiments, the beams will contain many more protons, up to 2,800 instead of the one or two currently in the beam. When the experiments are in full swing, every possible detector is working to identify or just note existance of all the exotic particles that are emitted from proton collisions at these high energies.
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All of the current collisions, however, are part of the testing process to maximize data when the LHC goes into its “collision factory” mode.
New technical challenges
Professor David Newbold, of the University of Bristol, is involved with research on the LHC. He pointed out that working at these higher energies presents new technical challenges that must be overcome.
“When you accelerate the beams they actually get quite a lot smaller – so the act of actually getting them to collide inside the detectors is really quite an important technical step,” Newbold said in an interview Thursday.
“13 TeV is a new regime – nobody’s been here before.”
Newbold went on to explain that the engineers in charge of the collider beams can now begin to pump in more and more protons.
“The special thing about LHC is not just the energy we can collide the beams at, it’s also the number of collisions per second, which is also higher than any other accelerator in history. The reason for that is – like the Higgs boson last time – what we’re principally looking for is incredibly rare decay particles. And the more collisions you have per second, the more chance you have of finding something that’s statistically significant.”