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Big bang machine zips into record books

The "big bang" machine, the world's most expensive and biggest science instrument, has broken the record for proton acceleration.

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) were able to use the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to accelerate twin proton beams to 1.18 teraelectonvolts (TeV). That beats the previous record of 0.98TeV set in the United States in 2001.

In particle physics, an electron volt is a measurement of kinetic energy. A TeV is roughly equivalent to the energy of a flying mosquito.

Cern said in a statement that the ability to give particles that much energy "brings further confirmation that the LHC is progressing smoothly" toward its goal of smashing subatomic particles together at a combined energy level of 14TeV.

Researchers hope such a collision will help recreate what happened 13.7 billion years ago when the universe was a fraction of a second old and the basic building blocks of matter first appeared.

After several malfunctions and delays, the first full-power collisions are scheduled to take place during the first quarter of 2010.

The collider sends particles around a 27km-long underground tunnel that spans the Swiss-French border near Geneva. It cost about $6 billion (SFr6 billion) to build.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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