January 31, 2011

CERN Extends LHC’s Run Until 2012

CERN announced on Monday that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will run through the end of 2012 with a short technical stop at the end of 2011.

The decision to keep the LHC running gives its experiments a good chance of finding new physics in the next two years, before the LHC goes into a long shutdown to prepare for higher energy running starting 2014.

CERN management made the decision after the annual planning workshop held in Charmonix last week.

"If LHC continues to improve in 2011 as it did in 2010, we've got a very exciting year ahead of us," CERN's Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers, said in a statement. "The signs are that we should be able to increase the data collection rate by at least a factor of three over the course of this year."

The LHC was originally planned to be running until the end of 2011, before going into a technical stop.  However, the machine's performance has given CERN management the confidence to keep it running until 2012.

The news comes as scientists have carried out the first full run of experiments that smash protons together at almost the speed of light.

Researchers say that they are well on their way to being able to either confirm or rule out one of the primary theories that could solve many of the outstanding questions of particle physics, known as Supersymmetry (SUSY). 

Many scientists believe that it could be a valid extension for the Standard Model of particle physics, which describes the interactions of known subatomic particles with astonishing precision but fails to incorporate general relativity, dark matter and dark energy.

Professor Geoff Hall from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, who works on the CMS experiment, said in a press release:  "We have made an important step forward in the hunt for dark matter, although no discovery has yet been made. These results have come faster than we expected because the LHC and CMS ran better last year than we dared hope and we are now very optimistic about the prospects of pinning down Supersymmetry in the next few years."

Physicists are looking forward to the 2011 run of the LHC and CMS, which is expected to bring in data that could confirm Supersymmetry as an explanation for dark matter.

Allowing the LHC to run through 2012 would help bring in more discoveries and understanding about Supersymmetry and other new physics. 

"With the LHC running so well in 2010, and further improvements in performance expected, there's a real chance that exciting new physics may be within our sights by the end of the year," CERN's Research Director, Sergio Bertolucci said in a statement.

"For example, if nature is kind to us and the lightest supersymmetric particle, or the Higgs boson, is within reach of the LHC's current energy, the data we expect to collect by the end of 2012 will put them within our grasp."

The schedule has the LHC running 3.5 TeV next month through mid December.  There will then be a short technical stop over the year before resuming in early 2012.


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