Washington, August 8 (ANI): Reports indicate that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's most powerful particle smasher, should yield its first data by Christmas, smashing protons at energies high enough to begin pushing back the boundaries of particle physics.
The LHC is a particle accelerator at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, designed to answer fundamental questions, such as what gives elementary particles their mass, by colliding particles at higher energies than ever achieved in a laboratory before.
But, the first attempt to turn on the LHC failed in September 2008 when a joint connecting a pair of superconducting wires overheated, causing an explosive release of helium used as a coolant.
Scientists have been making repairs and checking the strength of other electrical connections since then to pave the way for a second start attempt.
According to a report by Nature News, the new schedule for restarting the LHC was announced by CERN, Europe's particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, on August 6.
But, the world's largest particle accelerator will only be operating at half the energy that it was originally designed for, and may not reach that peak until 2011 - if at all.
During repairs this spring, a new set of problems related to faulty magnet connections was discovered. lthough CERN officials believe they now have the problem in hand, they are being cautious in ramping up the beams' energies.
In mid-November, protons will be injected into the 27-kilometre-long accelerator ring at low energies to show that two particle beams can circulate well in opposite directions.
About four weeks later, the beams will be accelerated to about 3.5 teraelectronvolts (TeV) each, halfway to the LHC's maximum beam energy.
Smashing these beams together will create showers of exotic particles, and experimenters will begin gathering the data they need to calibrate their instruments.
"We could have a Christmas present for the experimenters if we're lucky," said Steve Myers, head of CERN's accelerator department.
According to Myers, if the initial collisions go well, engineers will ramp up to energies between 4 and 5-TeV per beam sometime in 2010.
The beams will then shut down in October or November 2010 for six months in order to make further repairs and install more helium-release safety valves, before attempting to reach higher beam energies in 2011.
Theorists say that LHC collisions with a total energy of 7-TeV should start to reveal previously unseen particles, although it might take a little longer than hoped to accumulate evidence for their existence. (ANI)