Boffins at CERN are counting down the days until the rebuilt and now even more powerful Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator restarts this spring, following a two-year-long shut down. Until this point, the LHC's power had been intentionally limited for safety reasons, but now its fullawesome power can be unleashed.
In that time, hundreds of engineers and technicians have been beavering away at repairs to allow the LHC to fire with nearly twice the energy of its previous run.
Among other things, they replaced 18 of the accelerator's 1,232 superconducting dipole magnets which steer particle beams around the LHC. Splices were also fitted into more than 10,000 electrical interconnections between the dipole magnets.
When the LHC restarts this year, the energy of particle collisions will be 13 TeV (or 6.5 TeV per beam) compared to 8 TeV (4 TeV per beam) in 2012.
This higher energy will allow physicists to extend their searches for new particles and to check previously untestable theories.
The machine has also been loaded with "new sets of radiation-resistant electronics" and the vacuum system that hoovers out stray molecules from the beam pipe has been revamped.
Techies at CERN, meanwhile, took advantage of the lengthy hiatus by installing almost 60,000 new cores and over 100 petabytes of additional disk storage to handle the beefed up data that's expected to flow from the experiments.
It will need to cope with the following deluge of information:
Bunches of protons in the accelerator will be separated in time by 25 nanoseconds compared to 50 nanoseconds. The LHC will thus deliver more particles per unit time, as well as more collisions, to the experiments.
To prepare for the challenges of more collisions, the LHC experiments, including ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb, underwent full consolidation and maintenance programmes, including upgrades to their subdetectors and data-acquisition systems.
All this anticipated activity could apparently lead to the discovery of a particle that is more exciting than the buzz created around the Higgs boson.
A top CERN researcher told the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the hunt was on for a supersymmetric particle to gift boffins with more clues about dark matter, the BBC reported. ®
The LHC's reawakening surely promises the return of headline gaffes such as this one. Bless.