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“Big Bang” machine to get big upgrade

The world’s largest particle smasher at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) near Geneva is to be converted into a more powerful machine by 2020.

International physicists launched the major programme for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which runs around a 27 kilometre circular tunnel under the border of Switzerland and France, on Wednesday.

Cern officials said the effort, which involves scientific establishments in the European Union, the United States and Japan, would require the development of new technologies in fields ranging from super-conducting magnets to energy transfer lines.

The upgrade concerns luminosity, which is the measure of the collision rate in a particle accelerator and therefore is an indication of its performance. 

The improved machine would enable operators to carry out up to ten times as many collisions as the hundreds of millions a second at present.

“With processes so rare, extra luminosity makes a big difference to our ability to make precision measurements and discover new things,” Cern Research Director Sergio Bertolucci said in a statement.

The LHC has been in operation since March 2010, providing a wealth of data for physicists and cosmologists, including some puzzling events, which are currently being double-checked.

Scientists hope to gain an insight into the origins and make-up of the universe from the experiment.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR