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Biggest Particle Accelerator Rewired to Hunt Dark Matter


Biggest Particle Accelerator Rewired to Hunt Dark Matter

Image: CERN/Disclosure

After three years of maintenance and upgrades, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was reactivated to start a new campaign of experiments that aims to study, among several researches, the enigmatic dark matter. The announcement was made by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Last Friday (22), two beams of protons circled the 27 km long ring of the LHC – located on the Swiss-French border – at an energy level of 450 billion electron volts. The successful reactivation marked the preparations for the resumption of scientific data collection starting in the second half of 2022 and which is expected to last for about four years.

The expectation is that the machine will begin to progressively increase the energy and intensity of the beams until it causes collisions in the experiments with a record energy of 13.6 trillion electron volts. A video about the reactivation of the LHC was released by CERN:

The world’s largest particle accelerator is more powerful

According to CERN’s director of accelerators and technology, Mike Lamont, the world’s largest particle accelerator underwent major upgrades during this second and long shutdown period. “The LHC itself has undergone an extensive consolidation program and will now operate at even higher power and, thanks to major improvements to the injector complex, will provide significantly more data for the updated LHC experiments,” said Lamont.

During the outage, the ATLAS and CMS detectors were upgraded so they receive more collisions than before. In the case of ATLAS, for example, it has been improved to receive three times as many collisions, and can be used to study the Higgs boson in more detail and hunt for extra dimensions.

It can also be used to detect dark matter particles – which make up 95% of all existing matter in the Universe, but which we cannot observe directly from here on Earth.

ALICE, a specialized detector for studying the physics of matter, can expect a fifty-fold increase in the total number of recorded heavy ion collisions.

Throughout this new campaign – called Run 3 – the LHC will also use new experiments, such as FASER and SND@LHC, which will measure the frequency of proton antimatter formation during collisions, in addition to expanding physicists’ knowledge of lightning and quark-gluon plasma – a state of matter that existed shortly after the Big Bang.

As pointed out by the website space, at the end of this new campaign, the Large Hadron Collider will be shut down again for maintenance. It will receive upgrades to become a massive particle accelerator, later being renamed the “Large High-Bright Hadron Collider”, or HL-LHC.

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