LHC Atom Smasher Sets Energy Record

The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva surpasses the previous mark three times over.

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Researcher studies Hadron Collider data in the LHC control room.
Photo by Maximilien Brice. Courtesy of CERN.

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Researchers at Geneva's Large Hadron Collider set a record for the amount of energy released by smashing two protons together in a head-on collision.

The scientists early Tuesday unleashed a pair of protons that circulated in opposite directions around the LHC's 17-mile track until they collided, releasing 7 trillion electronic volts (7 Tev) of energy—three times more than the previous record.

The point of the experiments is to learn more about subatomic particles, sometimes known as dark matter, that are believed to make up the fabric of the universe.

Tuesday's successful test was delayed by two hours as the researchers worked out technical problems.

Scientists at the facility, the largest of its kind in the world, have said that getting atomic particles to collide is liking firing two needles at each other from opposite sides of the Atlantic ocean and having them meet head-on.

LHC operators now plan to run the collider almost continuously over the next 18 to 24 months.

"This will bring enough data across all potential discovery areas to firmly establish the LHC as the world's foremost facility for high-energy particle physics," the organization said in a statement.

LHC is operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Staff scientists began preparations for Tuesday's event a week ago.

"The LHC is not a turnkey machine," said CERN director general Rolf Heuer, in a March 23rd statement.

"The machine is working well, but we're still very much in a commissioning phase and we have to recognize that the first attempt to collide is precisely that. It may take hours or even days to get collisions," said Heuer.

As it turned out, it took just hours.

In CERN's last, previous attempt to switch on a new research machine, achieving particle collisions took three days.

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