LHC tests proton collisions at 13 TeV for the first time

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Delays in restarting the Large Hadron Collider are paying off with CERN revealing that the particle collider has successfully registered collisions at the record-breaking energy of 13 TeV for the first time.

CERN revealed that the test were carried out as a step towards setting up the systems dubbed collimators that protect the machine and detectors from particles that stray from the edges of the beam. CERN revealed through a press release that these devices were adjusted in colliding-beam conditions. The test collisions will provide its scientists with the data they need to ensure that the LHC magnets and detectors are fully protected, CERN added.

The research organisation will continue the tests today as well with the colliding beams staying in the LHC for several hours giving operations the time to monitor beam quality and further optimise the set-up if needed. This, the CERN said, is an important part of the process that will allow the experimental teams running different experiments including ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, LHCf, MOEDAL and TOTEM to switch on their experiments fully.

Data taking and the start of the LHC’s second run is planned for early June, the press release added.

The 13 TeV collisions are an entirely different and uncharted territory and according to Professor David Newbold, from the University of Bristol, who works on the CMS experiment, the new energies present new technical challenges.

“When you accelerate the beams, they actually get quite a lot smaller – so the act of actually getting them to collide inside the detectors is really quite an important technical step,” Prof Newbold told BBC News. “13 TeV is a new regime – nobody’s been here before.”

Dark Matter, Supersymmetry, More

With energies of 13 TeV already achieved, scientists at CERN and its different experiments will be looking for answers to dark matter, supersymmetry and possibly enter the realm of new physics, which we haven’t come across until now.

Professor Tara Shears, the head of the University of Liverpool LHCb group, said late last year that they still have a lot to work on and are looking forward to all the new data they will be able to collect and find answers about “antimatter, and why there’s so little in the universe.”

“We want to chase the hints we’ve seen in previous measurements, whose behaviour didn’t quite match our expectations, in case these hints turn into discoveries”, Shears added.

A new discovery “could be as early as this year… if we are really lucky,” said Beate Heinemann, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the ATLAS research team at LHC, during a talk in February at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

“Maybe we will find now supersymmetric matter,” she added. “For me it is more exciting than the Higgs.” Supersymmetry is an extension of the standard model of physics that aims to fill in some big gaps regarding how scientists understand matter.

Supersymmetry theory pegs all particles as having a counterpart that is heavier, and experts believe that if these partner particles are there, the LHC should be able to find them.

Since the standard model of physics cannot explain the existence of dark matter, which is thought to hold galaxies together and account for most of the matter in the universe, supersymmetry aims to offer “a more comprehensive picture of our world,” according to the CERN website.