The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest particle accelerator, has set a new record for beaming protons.
The LHC tripled the amount of energy previously achieved, shooting two beams of protons around its 27-kilometre subterranean loop at an energy of 3.5 trillion electron volts (TeV) each.
Popular Mechanics magazine describes the kinetic energy held by a proton powered to one TeV as that “of a fast-moving ant”. The difference is that an ant is around 61 billion trillion times heavier than a proton.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), the LHC’s operator, says it will start colliding the beams in the next few days part of a new round of research to examine the tiniest particles and forces within the atom.
The extra energy at the Geneva facility is expected to reveal even more about the unanswered questions of particle physics, such as the existence of dark energy and matter.
Scientists hope also to approach on a tiny scale what happened in the first split seconds after the Big Bang, which they theorise was the creation of the universe some 14 billion years ago.
The LHC was launched with great fanfare in September 2008 but was sidetracked nine days later when a badly soldered electrical splice overheated and set off a chain of damage to the massive superconducting magnets and other parts of the collider some 100 metres below the ground.
Cern had to undertake a $40 million programme (SFr42.43 million) of repairs and improvements before it was ready to retry the machine at the end of November. Then the collider performed almost flawlessly, giving scientists valuable data in the four-week run before Christmas.
swissinfo.ch and agencies