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11/30/2009
04:07 PM
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Large Hadron Collider Breaks Energy Record

The physics community is excited to see CERN's particle accelerator up and running again.

Early Monday morning, the problem-plagued Large Hadron Collider (LHC) set a world record in Switzerland when it accelerated twin proton beams to an energy of 1.18 TeV (teraelectronvolts), surpassing the record of 0.98 TeV set in 2001 by the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Tevatron collider in the U.S.

The LHC, a particle accelerator used to study small particles for advanced physics research, is operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

The LHC began operation in September 10, 2008, only to be shut down nine days later following a breakdown caused by a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator's massive magnets.

The accelerator's planned restart in 2009 was delayed when two vacuum leaks were found in July.

In November, a piece of baguette dropped by a bird led to a temperature spike in the collider's machinery, but the incident did not delay the LHC's restart earlier this month.

CERN's accelerators and technology director Steve Myers praised the LHC's performance. "I was here 20 years ago when we switched on CERN's last major particle accelerator, LEP," he said in a statement. "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 program."

Next year, the LHC will fire even more energetic beams -- 3.5 TeV per beam, colliding with an engery of 7 TeV -- in order to generate proton collision data that's more useful. Today's test aims to make sure that higher intensity experiments can be handled safely.

The LHC is expected to generate about 15 petabytes of scientific data annually, enough to fill over 1.7 million dual-layer DVDs.

To distribute, store, and analyze this data, CERN oversees the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG), a network that coordinates over 100,000 CPUs at over 170 sites in 34 countries, serving 8,000 physicists around the world.

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