After three years, CERN is preparing to wrap up the first run of the Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile-long particle accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland.
The Large Hadron Collider first went online in 2009 with the goal of smashing particles together at nearly the speed of light — in some cases, possibly faster — so that what’s left behind could be studied, proving or disproving various theories in experimental physics.
The LHC’s biggest goal, perhaps, was the search for the elusive Higgs-boson, a particle that, put simply, is believed to be what gives other particles mass. Less than three years into the project, CERN announced that it had observed what it believes to be the Higgs-boson, a fact that CERN is now almost 100 percent sure of.
During the Large Hadron Collider’s three-year run, the particle accelerator smashed a total of 6 trillion particles together until it was shut down on Monday. Of that 6 trillion, only 5 billion were usable. Of that 5 billion, only 400 were of note to researchers searching for the Higgs-boson.
The LHC has already done a lot of work, but it has at least one more run ahead of it. CERN says that it is working towards making the particle accelerator faster and more efficient for its second run.
To start, CERN says the space between proton bunches in beams have been lowered by half, which should make for more focused beams.
“This new achievement augurs well for the next LHC run starting in 2015,” CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers said in a press release. “High intensity beams are vital for the success of the LHC programme. More intense beams mean more collisions and a better chance of observing rare phenomena.”