After a two year pause, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is back and ready to take on 2015 and the projects that physicists have in store for it. This time it’s more powerful than ever. It is now a bigger and better version of what it was during its first 3 year run from 2010 to 2013.
The LHC is known as the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider. It was built underground near Geneva, Switzerland by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The 16 mile long collider was built between 1998 and 2008, having 9,600 magnets installed in order for atomic particles to accelerate and reach the speed of light. Its largest magnet extends to about 50 feet and weighs 35 tons. The magnetic field it induces is 100,000 times more powerful than Earth’s.
The LHC can also be considered the biggest refrigerator on Earth as it needs to permanently keep the magnets cooled down to minus 271.3 degrees Celsius.
On its first successful run, the collider contributed to the discovery of the Higgs boson, also known as “the God particle”, thus helping scientists explain why some fundamental particles have mass.
The main goal for 2015 is to set the collider to function with two proton beams, generating 13 TeV collisions and more energy than any other collider had achieved in the past. Operating with such power gives researchers the possibility to further explore “the God particle” and the likelihood of it existing under different forms, with various masses and charges.
By doubling the collider’s energy it will be possible to study and produce heavier particles. Researchers will also be able to explore the interactions between these particles and the Higgs boson thus increasing the possibility of finally understanding dark matter, a term used to define a mass that forms 86 percent of the known universe.
The Physics community believes dark matter is made out of particles that faintly interact with common matter which can be studied with the naked eye. As it interacts only with gravitational fields and not light, dark matter cannot be studied in a direct manner.
Dark matter cannot be explained using The Standard Model of particle physics. This is one reason scientists want to use the LHC. It will not allow them to directly look into dark matter, but it will give them the opportunity of better understanding “the physics that goes beyond that model”.
The Large Hadron Collider is planned to be fully functional by March 2015.
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