1 January 2014
The Large Hadron Collider will undergo an overhaul that will nearly double its power and allow scientists to uncover more secrets about the way our universe works.
It opens up the possibility of solving the riddle of Dark Matter, finding evidence of a far-reaching cosmic concept known as 'supersymmetry', and even discovering signs of extra hidden dimensions that help explain the mystery of gravity.
By the end of the year the giant atom-smashing machine should be ready to boost its particle energy from eight trillion electrovolts, or teraelectronvolts (TeV) to 14 TeV - allowing it to perform the highest energy particle collisions ever attempted.
A new series of experiments due to resume early in 2015 could take scientists into an uncharted realm of physics known as 'beyond the Standard Model'.
It is currently shut down as technicians and scientists work on its upgrade.
Scientists may also uncover more Higgs bosons - different versions of the so-called 'God particle', predicted by Nobel laureate Professor Peter Higgs, that gives other particles mass.
The Higgs boson was the last missing piece of the 'Standard Model', a blueprint of interacting forces and elementary particles that has stood in place since the early 1970s.
Now scientists want to go further, beyond the Standard Model, to expand their theories about how the universe works.
Professor Tony Doyle, from the University of Glasgow, a leading member of the team operating the giant Atlas detector at the LHC, said: 'The idea now is that with the last missing piece of the Standard Model in place, the search now is for things that go beyond it, primarily suypersymmetry.'
Supersymmetry proposes that for every matter particle there is a corresponding force- carrying particle as well.
It requires not one but several Higgs bosons, providing new quarry for the LHC scientists to pursue.
'The universe being driven by supersymmetry is a really key idea,' said Prof Doyle. 'At the moment we separate things that are force carriers and matter particles.
'Evidence of supersymmetry would change our whole view of what's happening out there. Each of these particles would basically be the same thing, but one's force and one's matter.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground.
It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things.
It has revolutionised our understanding of the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.
Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap.
Physicists use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy.
Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.
'Our world is made up of matter and forces and they are distinct, but at higher energy scales they would be interchangeable. That may have been how things were just after the Big Bang. The real question is, can we probe that?'
Investigating supersymmetry may ultimately solve the riddle of Dark Matter - the invisible stuff that glues galaxies together with gravity but whose nature is unknown.
Dark Matter could be composed of supersymmetry particles that 'just sit there, not doing anything', said Prof Doyle.
Operating the LHC at higher energies may even offer scientists a glimmer of hidden extra dimensions, which in turn could answer unresolved questions about the nature of gravity.
The upgrade will involve stripping the whole of Atlas , the largest of the LHC's six detectors, which is more than 150 feet long and 82 feet tall.
'Originally we thought we could get away with not having to disassemble the whole thing, but that proved impossible,' said Prof Doyle.
'This detector's been sitting around since 2008 and there's a lot that needs to be done. We're taking it all apart and putting it back together again.
'There's a lot of radiation damage, because the LHC was running at much higher intensities than it was originally designed for.'
Other major work will be carried out on the 'ring', the 17-mile long circular tunnel through which protons, the 'hearts' of atoms, are accelerated to within a whisker of the speed of light.
Welds and joints on the powerful magnets around the ring will have to be strengthened to take the higher currents.
In 2020 a further upgrade will see the LHC's energy levels remain the same but its detectors made 10 times more sensitive.
The machine is expected to remain in operation until 2030.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2532069/Hadron-Collider-upgrade-lead-highest-energy-particle-collisions-attempted-efforts-solve-questions-Dark-Matter.html#ixzz2p9hQASvx
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