LHC shutdown postponed

CERN scientists have decided that the Large Hadron Collider is performing so well that they won’t close it down for improvements as planned.

Instead, the LHC will run through to the end of 2012 with a beam energy of 3.5 TeV, with a short technical stop at the end of this year.After that, it will go into a long shutdown to prepare for higher energy running starting 2014.

“If LHC continues to improve in 2011 as it did in 2010, we’ve got a very exciting year ahead of us,” says CERN’s director for accelerators and technology, Steve Myers. “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 previously scheduled to run to the end of this year before going into a long technical stop necessary to prepare it for running at 7 TeV per beam. But the team believes there’s a good chance of making new discoveries at the current energy level – if the LHC is given a little more time.

Expected performance improvements this year should mean that it collects three times as much data compared to 2010. Even if there turns out to be no new physics in the 3.5 TeV energy range, running through 2012 will give CERN the chance to fully explore it before moving up to higher energy.

“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,” said CERN’s research director, Sergio Bertolucci.

“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.”