GENEVA: The world’s largest particle smasher restarted Sunday after a two-year upgrade that will allow physicists to explore uncharted corners of what makes up the universe, including dark matter and antimatter.
“After two years of intense maintenance and several months of preparation for restart, the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, is back in operation,” the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said.
Experiments at the collider have been seeking to unlock clues as to how the universe came into existence by studying fundamental particles, the building blocks of all matter, and the forces that control them.
In 2012, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was used to prove the existence of Higgs Boson, the particle that confers mass, earning the 2013 Nobel physics prize for two of the scientists who, back in 1964, had theorized the existence of the so-called “God particle”.
The upgrade—which saw the LHC shut down in February 2013—was intended to nearly double the collider’s maximum collision capacity.
Its previous highest power was eight teraelectronvolts (TeV) reached in 2012, but after the two-year overhaul, it will first reach 13 TeV and can potentially be cranked up to a maximum 14 TeV.
CERN said earlier that if all went well with the start-up particle collisions “at an energy of 13 TeV” could start as early as June.
During the next phase of the LHC program, researchers will probe a conceptual frontier called new physics, including antimatter and dark matter.
The latter is a theoretical type of matter that cannot be seen with telescopes but is thought to make up most of the universe. It has only been detected by its gravitational effects, CERN says.
Ordinary, visible matter comprises only about four percent of the known universe.
As part of the recommissioning process, LHC engineers successfully introduced two proton beams, the source material for sub-atomic smashups.
All systems would be checked over in coming days before the energy of the beams was increased, the Geneva-based CERN physics lab said in a statement.