The Large Hadron Collider was turned back on today (July 5) and is expected to slam together particles at never-before-seen energy levels.
That Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. Is located CERN Located near Geneva, Switzerland, the nearly 17-mile (27-kilometer) loop went live today after being offline for four years for upgrades. After those repairs are complete, scientists plan to use the gargantuan accelerator to smash together protons at record-breaking energies of up to 13.6 trillion electron volts (TeV) — an energy level that should increase the chances of the accelerator producing particles that science has determined have not yet been observed.
The accelerator’s particle beam upgrades did more than increase their energy range; Greater compactness, which makes the beams denser with particles, increases the likelihood of a collision so much that the accelerator is expected to capture more particle interactions in its third run than in the previous two combined. In the two previous stints from 2009 to 2013 and 2015 to 2018, the atom Smasher bolstered physicists’ understanding of how the basic building blocks of matter interact – called the standard model – and led to the discovery of the long-predicted Higgs bosonthe elusive particle that gives all matter its mass.
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But despite the accelerator’s experiments, which have spawned 3,000 scientific papers on many minor discoveries and tantalizing clues to deeper physics, scientists have yet to find conclusive evidence of new particles or brand new physics. After this upgrade, they hope that will change.
“We will measure the strength of Higgs boson interactions with matter and force particles with unprecedented precision, and we will advance our search for Higgs boson decays Dark matter particles and the search for further Higgs bosons”, Andreas Hoecker, speaker of the LHCs ATLAS collaborationan international project involving physicists, engineers, technicians, students and support staff, said in a expression (opens in new tab).
Inside the LHC’s 27-kilometre-long subterranean ring, protons whiz around at nearly the speed of light before colliding. The result? New and sometimes exotic particles are created. The faster these protons are, the more energy they have. And the more energy they have, the more massive particles they can create by banging together. Atom smashers like the LHC detect possible new particles by looking for tell-tale decay products, since the heavier particles are generally short-lived and immediately decay into lighter particles.
One of the goals of the LHC is to further test the Standard Model, the mathematical framework that physicists use to model all known elementary particles in the universe universe and the forces through which they interact. Although the model has been around in its final form since the mid-1970s, physicists are far from satisfied and are constantly looking for new ways to test it and, if they’re lucky, discover new physics that will make it fail.
This is because the model, while the most comprehensive and accurate to date, has huge gaps, making it utterly unable to explain where the power is coming from heaviness comes from, what dark matter is made of or why there is so much more matter than antimatter in the universe.
While physicists want to use the upgraded accelerator to study the rules of the Standard Model and learn more about the Higgs boson, the upgrade of the LHC’s four main detectors also puts the LHC well-placed to look for physics beyond that , which is already known. The LHC’s main detectors – ATLAS and CMS – have been upgraded to collect more than twice as much data as before in their new task of looking for particles that can survive across two collisions; and the LHCb detector, now collecting ten times more data than it used to, will look for breaks in the universe’s fundamental symmetries and explanations for why the cosmos contains more matter than antimatter.
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Meanwhile, the ALICE detector is being used to study high-energy ion collisions, which have seen a 50-fold increase in recorded cases compared to previous runs. When they collide, the ions — atomic nuclei that acquire electric charge from the removal of electrons from their orbital envelopes — create a primordial subatomic soup called quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that only existed during the first microsecond after the Big Bang.
In addition to this research effort, a number of smaller groups will be exploring the roots of other physical mysteries with experiments probing the interior of protons; study the behavior of cosmic rays; and look for the long theorized magnetic monopole, a hypothetical particle that is an isolated magnet with only one magnetic pole. There are also two new experiments called FASER (Forward Search Experiment) and SND (Scattering and Neutrino Detector), made possible by the installation of two new detectors during the recent accelerator shutdown. FASER will look for extremely light and weakly interacting particles such as neutrinos and dark matter, and SND will look exclusively for neutrinos, ghostly particles that can travel through most matter without interacting with it.
One particle physicist is particularly anxious to find the long-sought Axion, a bizarre hypothetical particle that doesn’t emit, absorb or reflect light and is a prime suspect for what dark matter is made of.
This third run of the LHC is scheduled to last four years. After this time, collisions will be stopped again for further upgrades that take the LHC to even higher levels of performance. Once upgraded and operational again in 2029, the High Luminosity LHC is expected to collect ten times as much data as the previous three runs combined.
Originally published on Live Science.