Atom-Smasher Sets Record Energy Levels

CERN's Large Hadron Collider has become the world's highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV.

The world's biggest atom-smasher has set a world record by accelerating to energy levels that had never been previously reached, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said on Nov. 30.

"CERN's Large Hadron Collider has today become the world's highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV in the early hours of the morning," said the organization.

A teraelectronvolt (TeV) is equivalent to the energy level of a flying mosquito, while CERN wants to ultimately achieve maximum power of 7.0 teraelectronvolts or trillion electronvolts in its bid to replicate the big bang.

The previous world record was set by a the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron collider in 2001, when it reached 0.98 TeV.

Scientists are looking to the collider -- inside a 27-kilometer (16.8-mile) tunnel straddling the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva -- to mimic the conditions that followed the Big Bang and help explain the origins of the universe.

The LHC was relaunched on November 20, after breaking down nine days after it was started with great fanfare in September 2008.

By next year, the LHC should be ramped up to 3.5 teraelectronvolts, reaching "close to five" teraelectronvolts in the second half of next year, scientists said. "Already with 3.5 TeV, we can open new windows into physics. That can already happen next year," CERN director-general Rolf-Dieter Heuer had said.

At the same time, Heuer would not predict how soon new data could be generated from the LHC, stressing that "it depends on how kind nature is to us."

The LHC at CERN took nearly 20 years to complete, at a cost of six billion Swiss francs (US$ 4.9 billion.)

The massive experiment aims to resolve physics enigmas such as an explanation for "dark matter" and "dark energy" that account for 96% of the cosmos and whether other dimensions exist parallel to our own.

The Holy Grail will be finding a theorized component called the Higgs Boson, which would explain how particles acquire mass. The elusive Higgs has been dubbed the "God particle".

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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