LHC reaches highest energy level yet

CERN yesterday ramped the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) up to record levels, ahcieving a collision energy of 8 TeV.

“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,says CERN’s director for accelerators and technology, Steve Myers.

“Now it’s over to the experiments to make the best of the increased discovery potential we’re delivering them!”

While it’s not a huge increase in collision energy, it takes the LHC up to a level where certain particles would be produced much more copiously. These include those predicted by supersymmetry – a theory in particle physics that goes beyond the current Standard Model and could account for the dark matter of the universe.

Late last year, CERN produced what it calls ‘tantalizing hints’ of the Higgs boson – required by the Standard Model to explain why everything in the universe has mass.

The new energy level will increase the chances of producing Standard Model Higgs particles, if they exist – but alongside this will come an increase in ‘background noise’. Thus, the CERN scientists need to run at the full speed for the rest of the year to produce enough data for a clear result.

“The increase in energy is all about maximising the discovery potential of the LHC,” says CERN research director Sergio Bertolucci. “And in that respect, 2012 looks set to be a vintage year for particle physics.”

At the end of this year, the LHC will go into its first long shutdown in preparation for running at an energy of 6.5 TeV per beam as of late 2014, with the ultimate goal of ramping up to the full design energy of 7 TeV per beam.