LHC sets new particle energy acceleration record

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Large superconducting magnets at the LHC. The magnets were made at Fermilab, an American laboratory specializing in particle physics.
Image: gamsiz.

The world's Large Hadron Collider accelerated its protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV at 00:44 GMT+1 today. This set a new world record, surpassing the 0.98 TeV record set at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron collider, which was commissioned in Chicago in 2001. The event came ten days after the LHC collider restart.

Yesterday at 20:48 UTC, one proton beam was accelerated to 1050 GeV (1.05 TeV) in LHC. Three hours later, the next record was set by two beams of opposite direction, 1.18 TeV each.

The CERN researchers are delighted with the quick progress and are happy with the excellent performance of the machine. Steve Myers, director of accelerators and technology at the Cern particle physics laboratory near Geneva, commented on LHC optimistically, comparing it with the twenty-year old Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP): "I was here 20 years ago when we switched on Cern's last major particle accelerator, LEP. I thought that was a great machine to operate, but this is something else. What took us days or weeks with LEP, we're doing in hours with the LHC. So far, it all augurs well for a great research programme."

High proton beam energy is needed to get many proton-proton collisions. However, all elements of the system need to be monitored carefully, and sudden energy increases are undesirable to ensure that the machine operates within normal parameters, in order to avoid a repeat of the superconductive magnet quench and consequent six-tonne liquid helium leak catastrophe on September 19, 2008, nine days after the first start. The damage caused by the leak, and the subsequent repairs and upgrades to the LHC that were needed, caused a delay of more than a year in the commissioning of the collider.

"We are still coming to terms with just how smoothly the LHC commissioning is going. It is 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" said Cern's director general Rolf Heuer.