The World of International Organizations

CERN particle collider to reopen in 2021

CERN's Large Hadron Collider (AN/John Heilprin)

GENEVA (Arête News) — The world’s biggest atom smasher will restart in May 2021, two months later than planned, and will operate for an extended run until the end of 2024, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said on Friday.

Managers at the international organization, known by its French acronym CERN, presented the new operating calendar to a governing council of 23 member nations for approval. A day earlier, the council unanimously decided to reappoint Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian physicist, to a second five-year term as CERN’s director-general starting in January 2021.

CERN operates the 27-kilometer Large Hadron Collider along the Swiss-French border near Geneva. The underground LHC is used to try to recreate conditions a split second after the Big Bang, which scientists theorize was the massive explosion that created the universe.

CERN said it also completed a major milestone in a year and a half long project on Friday by connecting several tunnels 100 meters underground. The tunnels connect the LHC with its successor, the High-Luminosity LHC.

A second connection between the new tunnels and the LHC tunnel should be completed before summer 2020, CERN said, and the underground structures are to be fully completed by mid-2021, while the surface buildings will be completed by mid-2022.

“This is a crucial milestone for the High-Luminosity LHC,” Lucio Rossi, the High-Luminosity LHC project leader, said in a statement. “These structures will house equipment that is needed to reach high luminosity.”

The LHC has a limited life-span and is sometimes shut down for repairs or upgrades. Since last year the collider has been going through a major upgrade to increase the number of proton collisions for experiments, which boosts the probability of more discoveries about the universe’s fundamental properties.

It is now expected to operate in a high-luminosity mode by the start of 2028. Luminosity refers to the number of collisions among sub-atomic particles. The higher the luminosity, the more data become available. The upgrades will increase the number of proton collisions for experiments.

“All of the equipment needed for the High-Luminosity LHC, the LHC’s successor, and its experiments will be installed during Long Shutdown 3, between 2025 and mid-2027,” CERN said in a statement. “The High-Luminosity LHC is scheduled to come into operation at the end of 2027.”

More data, better detectors

In 2012, CERN hailed the discovery of a “missing cornerstone of physics” when it detected a new subatomic particle, the Higgs boson, that helps explain why all matter has mass. Its existence was predicted nearly a half-century earlier.

Over the past year, CERN has been working on extensive upgrades to its accelerator complex and experiments in preparation for the next run of its LHC.

Major work is being carried out on all the machines and infrastructures, the international organization said, with the particle accelerator chain undergoing thorough renovations and other new equipment being installed where the upgrades continue.

But to be able to handle all the extra data that the atom smasher will generate, CERN’s data detectors are being improved, too.

“The High-Luminosity LHC will generate many more collisions than the LHC, accumulating 10 times more data than its predecessor throughout its operation,” CERN said. “This groundbreaking machine will thus be able to detect extremely rare phenomena and improve the precision of measurements of the infinitesimally small.”

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