The Large Hadron Collider is currently getting a massive upgrade, and once everything is completed, it is expected to be substantially more powerful, and capable of helping scientists make bigger breakthroughs with all the data the atom smasher will be able to gather.
According to Engadget, work on the LHC upgrade began on Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, with a ground-breaking ceremony officially kicking off a project that is expected to be completed sometime in 2026. The upgrade will transform the atom smasher into an even higher-end machine, one called the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider or HL-LHC.
Currently, the Large Hadron Collider is made up of two overlapping 16-mile (27-kilometer) rings, with four intersecting points where protons can collide. Once upgraded, the machine will be able to gather about five to seven times more data than it can at the present, but in order to do that, the LHC team will need to increase the chances of protons colliding into each other by squeezing the particle beams at the four intersections.
As noted by Gizmodo, the LHC team makes new discoveries when collisions act in a way that defies what is suggested by the established laws of physics, or if they act as predicted, but are unique or peculiar enough to stand out. But with these discoveries being few and far in between, more collisions would be needed. That’s where the ongoing project comes in; once the LHC becomes the HL-LHC, it will be capable of producing five to seven billion collisions between protons per second, up from the current rate of one billion per second.
Considering all the parts that need to be installed, such as the 130 or so magnets that would be required to squeeze the particle beams, Gizmodo wrote that the upgrade will result in a multi-year shutdown, where the LHC will be inactive, starting in late 2023 or early 2024.
The Large Hadron Collider upgrade is important, Gizmodo added, as there have been no other new particles confirmed after the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012; This is contrary to what physicists had expected from the LHC in the years that followed the Higgs boson’s observation, as the machine was thought to be capable of explaining the “ugliness” of certain facets fundamental physics and solving the mystery of dark matter, among other discoveries.
“The LHC now is a numbers game: we need as much data as possible. To study the Higgs boson after its discovery in 2012 but also because it is pretty clear by now that any other new particles could be rare,” said Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) physicist Freya Blekman in an interview with Gizmodo, as she explained why the LHC team needs so much data.
Once the Large Hadron Collider has been upgraded and turned into the High-Luminosity LHC, there might be other machines in store for the future, Gizmodo wrote. These include a linear collider that would fire off particles in straight lines, as opposed to rings, and hopefully help “refine our understanding of physics” and assist scientists in finding new particles. This proposed collider might also lead to a 62-mile (100-kilometer) round ring that could further help to that end, as scientists “continue looking for weirder ways” to make new particle discoveries.