The Large Hadron Collider Is About to Ramp Up to Unprecedented Energy Levels

The Large Hadron Collider, which discovered the Higgs boson ten years ago, is poised to begin smashing protons together at unprecedented energy levels in its effort to unveil new secrets about how the universe works.

After a three-year hiatus for improvements in preparation for its third run, the world's largest and most powerful particle collider reopened in April.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced last week that it will begin running around the clock for nearly four years on Tuesday at a record energy of 13.6 trillion electronvolts.

It will fire two beams of protons — particles in the nucleus of an atom – in opposite directions around a 27-kilometer (17-mile) ring buried 100 meters beneath the Swiss-French border.

Thousands of scientists will record and analyze the ensuing collisions as part of a slew of experiments, including ATLAS, CMS, ALICE, and LHCb, which will utilize the increased power to investigate dark matter, dark energy, and other basic mysteries.

1.6 billion collisions a second

"We aim to be delivering 1.6 billion proton-proton collisions per second" for the ATLAS and CMS projects, according to CERN's head of accelerators and technologies Mike Lamont.

To enhance the collision rate, the delay between proton beams will be reduced to less than 10 microns - a human hair is around 70 microns thick.

The enhanced energy rate will allow them to dig further into the Higgs boson, which was discovered by the Large Hadron Collider on July 4, 2012.

The finding changed physics in part because the boson fit into the Standard Model, which is the prevailing hypothesis of all the elementary particles that make up matter and the forces that control them.

However, some recent discoveries have cast doubt on the Standard Model, and the newly improved collider will investigate the Higgs boson in greater depth.

"The Higgs boson is related to some of the most profound open questions in fundamental physics today," said CERN director-general Fabiola Gianotti, who originally announced the discovery of the boson a decade ago.

There will be 20 times more collisions this time around compared to the collider's initial run, which identified the boson.

"This is a significant increase, paving the way for new discoveries," Lamont said.

CERN's chief of research and computing, Joachim Mnich, stated that there was still a lot to learn about the boson.

"Is the Higgs boson really a fundamental particle or is it a composite?" he wondered.

"Is it the only Higgs-like particle that exists – or are there others?"

'New physics season'

Previous tests revealed the mass of the Higgs boson as well as the masses of more than 60 composite particles predicted by the Standard Model, such as the tetraquark.

However, Gian Giudice, the head of CERN's theoretical physics department, stated that seeing particles is only one aspect of the work.

"Particle physics does not simply want to understand the how – our goal is to understand the why," he explained.

ALICE, which explores the stuff that existed in the first 10 microseconds after the Big Bang, and LHCf, which utilizes collisions to imitate cosmic rays, are two of the Large Hadron Collider's nine experiments.

Following this run, the collider will return in 2029 as the High-Luminosity LHC, boosting the number of observable events by a factor of ten.

Beyond that, scientists are proposing a Future Circular Collider, a 100-kilometer ring that seeks to achieve energy of 100 trillion electronvolts.

For the time being, physicists are eagerly anticipating the findings of the third run of the Large Hadron Collider.

"A new physics season is starting," CERN stated.