CERN's Large Hadron Collider will take a 2 year break after Higgs boson

First Posted: Jan 02, 2013 03:30 PM EST

Following a spectacular year 2012, CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the largest and most powerful particle accelerator ever built, will stop operation after January 2013 for nearly 2 years of maintenance.

At the beginning of 2013, the LHC will collide protons with lead ions before going into a long maintenance stop until the end of 2014. Running will resume in 2015 with another round of power increases, raising collision energy by over 50 percent to 13 TeV and another increase in luminosity, a crucial parameter measuring the rate of collisions of an accelerator.

The collider, built and operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN, the world's leading laboratory for particle physics, made big waves in July 2012, when it was announced that a Higgs Boson particle signature was detected for the very first time.

Often called "God particle," it is believed to be the building block of all things and that gives mass to all matter in the known universe. The much awaited discovery helped put physicist Peter Higgs, who theorized the concept of the particle, on the fast track to a potential Nobel Prize.

Several science journals and publications are calling the discovery of the particle the scientific breakthrough of the year in 2012.

"The LHC's performance has exceeded all expectations over the last three years," said CERN's Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers in a press release, "The accelerator delivered more than 6 million billion collisions and the luminosity has continuously increased. It's a fantastic achievement, and I'm incredibly proud of my team."

The year-on-year improvements in performance, like a doubling in beam intensity announced in December, has allowed the LHC experiments to obtain important results quicker than expected. In addition to the spectacular discovery of a Higgs-like particle announced in July, the experiments have led to many other studies improving the understanding of fundamental matter. And it is still just the beginning for LHC, with more groundbreaking research lined up, for example to find signs of dark-matter, and in the field of antimatter.

Another achievement of global significance was reached for the CERN organization itself in 2012, which was granted the status of observer to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 14 December. The adoption of the resolution, submitted by the Organization's two Host States, Switzerland and France, was followed by a meeting between CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

The main factor behind it was that both CERN and the United Nations are actively involved in disseminating knowledge in the fields of science and technology, particularly with a view to development. Through its projects, which bring together thousands of scientists from all over the world, CERN also promotes dialogue between nations and has become a model for international cooperation.

Other high profile international research projects include the International Space Station, and the international fusion reactor ITER, which is currently being constructed and scheduled to start operation in 2020. Incidentally, the Tokamak is located in France as well, just a few hundred kilometers from CERN in Geneva, and will also host hundreds of the best engineers and scientists in their field from around the world.

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