Well, they’ve done it: at 2028 GMT, 29 November 2009 the Large Hadron Collider officially became the most powerful particle accelerator ever built by humans. One of the proton beams in the LHC was powered up to 1.05 teraelectron volts (TeV) at that time, and three hours later both of the beams were powered to 1.18 TeV. This breaks the previous record held by the Fermilab accelerator in Chicago, which has held the record of .98 TeV since 2001.
Despite the initial problems that the largest scientific instrument ever built had this past year, things seem to be progressing smoothly. Last week, the proton-proton beams were collided for the first time. This latest record accelerated the protons to 0.9997 times the speed of light.
No new collisions were seen at this latest milestone, as it is just part of the process of powering up the beams to the projected 7 TeV needed for the first experiments of next year. Each beam will be powered up to 3.5 TeV to smash protons in order to re-create the conditions that existed near the time of the Big Bang, and help physicists understand the fundamental nature of matter. The 7 TeV goal should be reached by the end of December, and the first collisions at the amazing energies of the LHC will occur in early 2010.
Director-General of CERN Rolf Heuer said the recent progress has been fantastic. “However, we are continuing to take it step by step, and there is still a lot to do before we start physics in 2010,” he said. “I’m keeping my champagne on ice until then.”
The LHC, is a 27 km (17 mile) long circular tunnel composed of super-cooled, superconducting magnets that runs underneath the town of Geneva, Switzerland. By colliding protons together at such energetic speeds, some fundamental questions about what matter is made of, and what the conditions were like around the earliest times of our Universe may be answered.
You can follow further advancements of the LHC at CERN’s site, on Twitter or right here at Universe Today!