GENEVA - The world’s largest atom smasher broke the world record for proton acceleration yesterday, firing particle beams with 20 percent more power than the American lab that previously held the record.
The power of the Large Hadron Collider’s proton beams is essential to the project’s ultimate goal: smashing particles into one another with enough force to shatter them into the smallest building blocks of matter.
The test continues a sequence of successes that have elated scientists who were disappointed by the $10 billion machine’s collapse last year during its opening in a 17-mile tunnel under the Swiss-French border. The breakdown required extensive repairs and improvements.
The collider fired two particle beams at 1.18 trillion electron volts early yesterday, surpassing the previous high of 0.98 1 TeV held by the Chicago-area Fermilab since 2001, according to the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
Physicists measure the energy of the hair’s-width beams, not their speed, because the protons are traveling close to the speed of light and cannot go much faster.
One proton at 1 TeV is about the energy of the motion of a flying mosquito. When a beam is fully packed with 300,000 billion protons with 7 TeV energy - the goal of the collider - it is like an aircraft carrier traveling at 20 knots. That is why the scientists are carefully learning how to run it and make sure all protection systems are working, said a spokesman for the European nuclear research group.