Revamped Large Hadron Collider set to restart

The Large Hadron Collider, the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world, is scheduled to be restarted early next year after an ambitious two-year upgrade project that will nearly double its power.

Located near Geneva, Switzerland, the 17-mile LHC was built between 1998 and 2008 to help scientists test some theories of particle and high-energy physics and advance understanding of physical laws. It shut down for maintenance and upgrade work in February 2013.

“During the shutdown, scientists and engineers performed large-scale work to modernize the infrastructure and prepare the LHC for operation at higher energy,” a spokeswoman for CERN, the European Nuclear Organization, wrote in an email to The Collider is likely to restart toward the end of March, she said.

In June, CERN said it had already begun cooling down the vast machine to prepare for the restart.

Prior to its hiatus, the Collider ran at a collision energy rate of 7 to 8 trillion electric volts (TeV). CERN’s goal is to run the machine at 13 TeV.

Earlier this week Nature reported that each of the Collider’s two proton beams will contain as much energy as a speeding freight train, with scientists pushing each beam to nearly 7 TeV.

The LHC is a 17-mile ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of particles. As part of the machine’s upgrade, 10,000 of the superconducting connectors that link the magnets have been reinforced or replaced, according to Nature.

Within the accelerator, the two proton beams, in separate “beam pipes” – essentially ultra-high vacuum tubes – travel in opposite directions around the ring before they are made to collide at four points, which correspond to the positions of four particle detectors.

The CERN spokeswoman said new equipment and technology have been placed in each of the detectors. The ATLAS detector, for example, now contains a new piece of hardware that uses 3-D sensors to track particles more effectively.

“These new installations will help the experiments hunt for new physics and phenomenon during the next run of the LHC, as well as improve their ability to take precision measurements of particles like the Higgs boson,” said the spokeswoman.

In 2012 the Collider won global acclaim with the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson  particle, which explains the behavior of other particles. Physicists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert were subsequently awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

When the LHC restarts next year, scientists will be eager to see whether the Higgs boson is the only particle of its kind or if new, exotic particles will be produced, according to Nature.

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