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Large Hadron Collider smashes protons at highest energy level yet

Large Hadron Collider smashes protons at highest energy level yet

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The Large Hadron Collider overcame some early electrical hurdles and operated at its highest energy level yet as it collected data from smashing protons together.

The Large Hadron Collider overcame some early electrical hurdles and operated at its highest energy level yet as it collected data from smashing protons together.

At an event Tuesday, the officials at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva kicked off the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments. LHC started at an energy three and a half times higher than previously achieved at a particle accelerator. The successful experiment culminated a 16-year, $10 billion quest to collide subatomic particles.

Gallery: LHC's biggest collision yet

In September 2008, the proton beams were successfully circulated in the main ring of the LHC for the first time but 9 days later operations were halted due to a fault between two superconducting bending magnets. Repairs and safety features took more than a year to implement. In November 2009, proton beams were circulated again.

The LHC event put those hurdles in the rear view mirror. Beams collided at an energy level of 7 trillion electron volts (7 TeV), with two beams each operating at 3.5 TeV. CERN1 Director General Rolf Heuer said "it's a great day to be a particle physicist."

LHC is designed to look for dark matter, new dimensions and the Higgs Boson. The Higgs boson is a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model in particle physics. The LHC is a 27km ring deep beneath the French-Swiss border.

CERN's business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. The LHC will give CERN more tools for its quest---especially as energy levels rise.

A few key images:

Here's a computer representation of the collision.

Proton tracks from an LHC experiment called Atlas.

More collisions.

More reading on the topic:

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure