Scientists hunting the Higgs boson have reactivated the Large Hadron Collider, waking the slumbering proton smasher from its winter slumber, and coaxing it to faster speeds than ever before. Running in 2011 at 3.5 TeV (teraelectronvolts) in each direction – for a total collision speed of 7 TeV – the new running speed is 8 TeV, ostensibly a small step up but one which the team at CERN says will have a significant impact on the potential for discovering new particles.
“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,” CERN Director for Accelerators and Technology Steve Myers said of the decision to increase the baseline energy. “Now it’s over to the experiments to make the best of the increased discovery potential we’re delivering them!”
In fact, that discovery potential is said to be “several times higher for certain hypothetical particles” and particularly those predicted by supersymmetry which, CERN says, “would be produced much more copiously at the higher energy.” Supersymmetry, although theoretical at present, is one possible way of explaining the dark matter some believe the universe is made up of.
Ironically, while Standard Model Higgs particles are expected to be more copious at 8 TeV too, the CERN team will also likely increase the number of background processes that resemble the much-anticipated boson. The LHC will still have to run for a full year if it’s to hunt down what caused the “tantalizing hints” of the particle in December last year.
“2012 looks set to be a vintage year for particle physics” CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci said of the restart. The LHC will run until the end of the year and then be offline until late 2014, as engineers prepare it for 13 TeV beams and then, finally, 14 TeV according to the limits of its design specifications.