Nasa / Space

Restarting the Large Hadron Collider after a 14-month hiatus

Scientists at CERN recently restarted the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). These experiment may help us understand the origins of the universe, what the base particles of matter are, and how those particles are held together.

On November 30, 2009, the scientists at CERN were finally able to restart the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) after a hiatus of more than a year. These experiments, which started slowly and gently because of complications last year with some faulty construction, will hopefully help us understand the origins of the universe, what the base particles of matter are, and how those particles are held together.

Restarting the LHC

When the LHC was restarted, it started with relatively low intensity beams and did not make those beams collide to ensure the integrity of the collider and its systems. Then, the scientists collided those beams to ensure that the energy was able to be handled and controlled and that the collection of data was working well. Up until that point, each beam only contained one proton bunch, but by December 4, 2009, the scientists began circulating multiple bunches.

The next step was to increase the energy in the beams. The LHC operators tested 450 GeV (gigaelectronvolts) before progressing to 1.18 TeV (teraelectronvolts). During all of these tests, the cryo-experts (technicians handling the temperature) and vacuum experts have intervened to adjust parameters in order to make the LHC work at peak performance and avoid another year-long shutdown.

How does the LHC work?

The LHC works by causing two beams of hadrons, composed of either protons or lead ions, to collide at 99.99% of the speed of light. These beams can gain energy up to 7 TeV, which will cause a collision of up to 14 TeV. To avoid collision with stray air molecules in the collector, the accelerator has been rendered a vacuum more sparse than the solar system, one comparable to that in interplanetary space. Also, in order to handle the high temperatures generated by these collisions, the accelerator is cooled to approximately -271.3°C, which is colder than outer space.

Six experiments

The LHC is composed of six unique experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, TOTEM, and LHCf), which span a ring over a 26km circumference.

  • ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) studies quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that scientists believe existed right after the Big Bang. By colliding the beams, scientists hope to generate enough energy to "melt" the protons and neutrons in the beams and creating the plasma.
  • The next two experiments are general purpose detectors. Their jobs include searching for the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and particles of dark matter. ATLAS and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) use magnetic detectors to find these particles; however, the two experiments use vastly different technical solutions and designs to obtain their goals.
  • The LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty) is focused on discovering why our universe is composed almost entirely of matter and hardly any antimatter. This is accomplished by studying a particle called the "beauty quark" or "b quark."
  • TOTEM (TOTal Elastic and diffractive cross section Measurement) is designed to measure the size of the proton and measure the LHC's luminosity. TOTEM will also complement CMS' data and help support the other LHC experiments.
  • LHCf ( Large Hadron Collider forward) simulates cosmic rays using the LHC's own particle emissions. This will help scientists learn how cosmic rays' interaction with Earth's upper atmosphere leads to the particles that reach ground level.

Check out the TechRepublic gallery of LHC images.

A holiday break

The LHC is shut down for the holiday season. When they restart in 2010, the first thing tested will be to increase the intensity and energy to 3.5 TeV per beam. This level of energy marks the minimum necessary for the six experiment sites to achieve their full spectrum of tests.

Related resource: Read Crave's recent interview with LHC scientist Dr. Paul Jackson.
8 comments
Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Answering the Higgs Boson and multiple dimensions questions is part of what's needed to confirm or deny Extended Heim Theory. Confirmation of EHT means that we may have the ability to realistically and economically achieve faster than light travel; as well as developing technologies based on gravito-magnetic, electro-gravitic, and electro-gravito-magnetic interactions. Considering how much we've been able to do with just electromagnetism; this could blow out all horizons for humanity for the next thousand years. Not to mention eliminating the problem of having all of humanity's eggs in the same basket.

dfborkowski
dfborkowski

I believe they will start testing at max power the morning of Dec. 21, 2012.

george.jenkins
george.jenkins

I ROFL'd at your guess of the collider being at full power on December 21st, 2012. Kind of reminded me of: VADER: Commence primary ignition. A button is pressed which switches on a panel of lights. A hooded Imperial soldier reaches overhead and pulls a lever. Another lever is pulled. Vader reaches for still another lever and a bank of lights on a panel and wall light up. A huge beam of light emanates from within a cone-shaped area and converges into a single laser beam out toward Alderaan. The small green planet of Alderaan is blown into space dust. Speaking of December 21st, 2012, I've been thinking about all of the technology advances we're witnessing and that date does sound viable for the merging and creation of a special event. Whether it's the end of the Earth or Human 2.0, I don't know but that date could be a turning point in our evolution.

pgit
pgit

Good one! As for "20+ days a year" didn't the OP say it could NOT run 20+ days a year? It CAN run 345- days a year then? And the power thing, sounds like he meant to processing power of the computers running the tests. That they now have Xeons would imply to me they can make the same calculations in less time, meaning less overall power consumption? You are dead on, dear Dr., as to the fed pumping out endless useless credits with the printing press here in the US. That "competition for goods" will result in one thing, and soon: hyperinflation. "Inflation" is simply the creation of (any) fiat (unbacked, i.e intrinsically useless) currency. Hyperinflation is when the "too big to fail" demad theirs so they can spend it on real goods, like real estate, before the system collapses and you and I are left holding the bag... of useless "dollars" and an alleged "debt" to ~someone~ for the privilege of having been robbed blind by banksters pulling "our representative's" strings. I'll take a LHC over 65 Billion given to rotten, filthy rich speculators who have the power to socialize their private losses.

conservativetroll
conservativetroll

Aside from the usual rhetoric about how such projects drive technology development, supposing we find the Higgs Boson particle, the question remains! So what?? Is this search on par with our search for water on the moon and other heavenly bodies! The LHC is 1/3 the size of what they were going to build in Texas in the 80's! It has already taught me that the European infrastructure is horribly inadequate. They've been building this thing for 15 years and it appears to be way under-engineered! Before the shut down they we having trouble powering even the 40K of processors that were to capture data, for crying out loud. That's over and above the fact that they can't run the collider itself 20+days a year According to what i'm reading they now have xeon processors that terrifically reduce the power requirements!

neilb
neilb

Well, did they build it? I believe that the saying is "if you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk". :)

alfielee
alfielee

We're bigger & we're better, we're the bees knees. We believe in our sporting prowess, our technical "better-estness" & the world owes us for how wonderful we've been to them by not just taking them over. We're the good guys, ... bull-dung, bull-dung, bull-dung... Btw, I'm Australian & I don't purport to agree to the mockery I have written, rather it has been written in S-A-R-C-A-S-M (for those Americans who don't understand, watch John Cleese). Learn not to believe in everything American & you'll realise that the world got along quite well before you guys came along & screwed it up.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Where are you going with this, constroll? you have disdain of science project, nationalism and mockery of the EU infrastructure all in one poorly formed paragraph. Get some cohesiveness if you want to get your ideas across. And figure out what you want to promote. Your post is a mishmash of ideas. Great in music, not so great in debate forums. The EU certainly can be made fun of. They have been stagnant for 30+ years, kept afloat only by offshore cheap goods and dynamics of the global economy plus cheap immigrant labor. Despite all that, and students who riot because they 'are not paid enuf' (yes, really) or milk farmers who destroy their production because the govt isn't putting their price high enuf to gouge the people more, they have not destroyed their economy with inflation as much as the US has. Back to the collider: despite whacko claims of Higgs Bosons or mini-black holes created by the collider somehow consuming the earth, it remains that research into subatomic structure, and macro-structures of the universe are important. The search for water on the moon and habitability of other planets (Mars, etc) are of interest too but are on the intermediate scale so are comparing apples and oranges. The LHC is 1/3 size of the Texas collider? In your terms 'So What?'.. it was never built. I'm told the partially built tunnels make excellant mushroom farms, protected from the hot texas summers. That brings up the magical mythical money fairy whose pockets were not quite full enuf still to fund this and taxpayers got PO'd. This is involved with the idea that such research is great but must be paid for somehow and saying something is great without comparing it other possible uses for the money is where this country is in trouble. We think we can endlessly spend on any 'good idea', if 'someone else' is paying for it (read 'the govt' which really is US). Problem is the Fed makes us think so by printing endless money for the govt but that money still requires competition for goods and people to do all these projects. The same reason our infrastructure is crumbling. We allocate money to build but not maintain. As for your claims it has power problems, how do you know this? do you have any website refs? do you know this first hand? I'm not razzing you, I'm really interested. This could be typical of govt built project. And that it can't run more than 20 days a year. What is your source for this? Inquiring minds want to know :)

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