April 6, 2012
CERN, Large Hadron Collider Physicists Set New Record
After a short winter break, physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on the French-Swiss border have set a new world record by successfully smashing two 4 teraelectronvolt (TeV) proton beams together producing a total of 8 TeVs, as they continue to search for the elusive Higgs boson “God particle.”
Following the record-breaking smashup yesterday (April 5 at 12:38 a.m.), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientists declared ℠stable beams,´ marking the start of a year of experiments that will either find the Higgs boson or rule out its existence altogether.
Scientists expect the big boost in capability will significantly increase the collider´s chances of discovering “new physics.” Even if the increased energy doesn´t hand over the Higgs boson, scientists are optimistic that they will see new things they had not seen before.
“The experience of two good years of running at 3.5 TeV per beam gave us the confidence to increase the energy for this year without any significant risk to the machine,” said Steve Myers, the director for accelerators and technology at CERN. “Now it´s over to the experiments to make the best of the increased discovery potential we´re delivering them.”
Although the increased collision energy is relatively modest, it translates to an increase discovery potential that can be several times higher than previously. The researchers hope that by running the collider at the new energy levels they can create “supersymmetrical” particles. They believe these particles would be more plentifully produced at higher energy output.
Supersymmetry is a theory in particle physics that goes beyond the current Standard Model, and could account for the dark matter of the Universe.
Since its first collisions in 2008, the LHC´s energy output has been cautiously increased. Now running at a record 8 TeVs, scientists plan to collect data until November, after which it will go into another shutdown mode, allowing for an upgrade that will last 20 months, after which, scientists hope to produce an operating proton beam energy of 14 TeVs, nearly double the current output.
The LHC collaboration hopes to reach that target in 2014, restarting the hunt for new physics in early 2015.
For now, however, 8 TeVs will have to do. The CERN teams working at the two major detectors at the LHC said this year is the “end game” for the hunt for Higgs. They announced at the end of last year that they had seen hints of the particle, but stopped short of claiming they had certainly discovered it.
Anticipation was further heightened last month when reports surfaced that the recently closed Tevatron collider at the US Fermilab facility had also seen possible hints of the particle within their data.
Researchers believe that, if the Higgs boson really does exist, running the LHC at the increased energy levels is the key to finding it.
“The increase in energy is all about maximizing the discovery potential of the LHC,” CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci, told BBC News. “And in that respect, 2012 looks set to be a vintage year for particle physics.”
“By the time the LHC goes into its first long stop at the end of this year, we will either know that a Higgs particle exists or have ruled out the existence of a Standard Model Higgs,” said Bertolucci. “Either would be a major advance in our exploration of nature, bringing us closer to understanding how the fundamental particles acquire their mass, and marking the beginning of a new chapter in particle physics.”
The LHC will need a full year worth of running to convert the tantalizing hints seen in 2011 into a real discovery, CERN said in a statement.