The Large Hadron Collider is set to begin its third run after three years of upgrades and maintenance work. It will push the energy of the collision between protons to a slightly higher – and never achieved before – level of 13.6 trillion electron volts (TeV). This incredible machine will run continuously for almost four years.
That energy level is both huge and tiny. The kinetic energy of a mosquito in flight is roughly around 1 TeV, or about ten trillionths of a kilowatt-hour. So definitely small. However, when you give that energy to tiny colliding particles, you get to the edge of known physics. The upgraded LHC delivers greater precision, so the discovery potential is as great as it has ever been.
The LHC’s four big experiments all have got upgrades. New and better detectors and computing infrastructures will lead to more data collected, and with higher quality. The general-purpose detectors ATLAS and CMS are expected to collect more data in Run 3 than in Run 1 and Run 2 combined.
The experiments were responsible for the discovery of the Higgs Boson 10 years ago, and they now hope to understand this interaction better, as well as maybe discover something new like dark matter.
“We will measure the strengths of the Higgs boson interactions with matter and force particles to unprecedented precision, and we will further our searches for Higgs boson decays to dark matter particles as well as searches for additional Higgs bosons,” Andreas Hoecker, spokesperson of the ATLAS collaboration, said in a statement. “It is not at all clear whether the Higgs mechanism realised in nature is the minimal one featuring only a single Higgs particle.”
LHCb is examining violations of fundamental symmetries, hoping to find the limits of the Standard Model of particle physics in the data, as well as trying to understand why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter. The detector has been completely revamped and is expected to collect ten times more data than in the previous run.
Last but certainly not least is ALICE, the detector dedicated to studying ions collision. These high-energy interactions produce quark-gluon plasma: a state of matter that existed briefly after the Big Bang. The upgrade will lead to a fifty-fold increase in the number of recorded collisions.
That’s not all – the LHC has several smaller experiments TOTEM, LHCf, MoEDAL, FASER, and SND@LHC, that will study neutrinos and cosmic rays but also hunt for the hypothetical magnetic monopoles.
If you fancy watching the start of the new run, streaming starts at 10 am ET in the video below.