The Large Hadron Collider, more powerful than ever, is about to be fired up again

Later this month, the world’s largest particle collider will start it’s test runs. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has undergone some major upgrades in the two years it has been down and scientists around the world are hoping for even bitter things that the discovery of the Higgs boson particle during the last run.

When the particle accelerator restarts collisions will occur at an operating temperature of 1.9 degrees above absolute zero and at 13 tera (or trillion) electron volts (TeV) of power.

“An electron volt is an unit of energy, particularly used in atomic and nuclear processes. It is the energy given to an electron by accelerating it through 1 volt of electric potential difference,” according to CERN.

1 eV is roughly the energy generated by a flying mosquito. The discharge from a 9-volt batter is 9 eV. During upgrades to the LHC, magnets in one-eighth of the ring were upgraded to accelerate particles to 6.5 TeV, so that when the particles collide the impact will occur at 13 TeV or 13,000,000,000,000 electron volts.

Tara Shears, a particle physics professor from the University of Liverpool told the BBC that the new design for the LHC could even reach 14 TeV.

We’re recreating temperatures that were last seen billionths of a second after the Big Bang. When you get to this hot temperature, matter dissociates into atoms, and atoms into nuclei and electrons. Everything unravels to its constituents. And those constituents are what we study in particle physics,” said Shears.

“With this new energy level, the LHC will open new horizons for physics and for future discoveries. I’m looking forward to seeing what nature has in store for us,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer in a statement.

During its prior run, the LHC was used to successfully detect the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle”.  The Higgs boson was an incredibly difficult thing to spot. It is the smallest known particle and exists for only one septillionth or 0.000000000000000000000001 of a second. It is, however, incredibly important as it gives mass to other particles.

The discovery led to the Nobel Prize in Physics for François Englert and Peter Higgs, “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.”

So, what are physicists hoping for with the restart of a more powerful LHC? The short answer is probably things they weren’t expecting, but more specifically the LHC will look for evidence of the elusive dark matter which makes up a sizable percentage of the mass in the universe but has not yet been seen or detected by any current method.

Researchers will also look for evidence of supersymmetric partners. Supersymmetry is a theory that states that all particles, bosons and fermions, have a partner. However, like dark matter, supersymmetric partners have not been detected to date.

Researchers also hope to better understand the Higgs boson and to unravel some of the mysteries of the big bang.

The LHC will begin running live tests of the new equipment this month and, if all goes well, should be ready to resume experiments in particle physics in May.



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