After running for three consecutive years, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was shut down for general maintenance. Since 2013, an international team of hundreds of engineers and physicists from some of the best colleges and universities in the world have spent time on preparing the Large Hadron Collider to operate at an even higher rate of acceleration. Scientists that work with the LHC are attempting to finish the Standard Model, which could be the backbone of the entire Universe at the smallest point. They believe that if they could find the state of matter known as quark-gluon plasma, it could unearth the possible properties of the Universe at its very inception.
A Stronger Collider
Engineers that work on the Large Hadron Collider spent two years installing 1232 superconducting dipole magnets to rebuild the world’s largest electromagnetic generator. The electromagnets keep particle beams in a perfect curvature of the 17-mile long tunnel, the area in which heavy-ion impacts occur. Moreover, the LHC’s superconducting electromagnets now have an advanced quench-protection system. These types of magnets conduct electricity without losing energy to resistance. Thus, allowing higher and more powerful magnetic fields that can be generated.
In round one of the LHC experiment, the energy beams were running at a capacity of eight Teraelectron volts (TeV). Although the new particle beams are more narrow than the first test run, a capacity of 13 TeV and running at more collisions per microsecond can be staged. To give a little extra speed to the particles that are traveling near the speed of light, they are given a jolt from energy from radiofrequency cavities in the tunnel. This allows the particle accelerator to give better data inside the physics of quantum mechanics.
CERN scientists also changed the mass of the particles used. In 2012, each particle “bunch” had a a proton level of 1.7 x 1011. For the next test they are using a bunch of 1.2 x 1011. According to particle physicists, a smaller bunch of protons is easier to manage due to the calculation counts per test. When an extraordinary amount of collisions are happening every few nanoseconds, it is hard for scientists to recorded data for each collision. Scientists at CERN stated that the computers on the Large Hadron Collider are unable to disentangle and process each path of collision. Although the queue of particle collisions has been lessened, each collision has been sped up to every 25 nanoseconds rather than every 50 nanoseconds. In just half the time as of before, the LHC will be able to create more particle collisions per unit of time.
To make sure the particle beams are in a perfect curvature of protons in the underground tunnel, CERN engineers created a vacuum chamber in the tunnel so that the particle beam does not interfere with the side of the tunnel. The vacuum is also coated with non-evaporable getter (NEG), which hinders the formation of an electron cloud within the tunnel that would ruin the tests.
A New State of Matter
Currently, four experiments are being done in the Large Hadron Collider. One of the tests scientists are running is what they call ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). The purpose of ALICE is to unearth more information of quark-gluon plasma. The material is a theoretical state of matter in the field of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). Chromodymamics deals with force carrying particles, such as bosons. The state of the matter is said to exist at temperature of over one billion degrees – 100,000 times hotter than the surface of the Sun. This “quark soup” is said to be one of the fundamental building blocks of life.
The accelerator inside the Large Hadron Collider reaches temperature so hot in order to simulate the conditions just a microsecond after the Big Bang. Scientists stated that essentially the quark soup consists of melted protons and neutrons, destroying the bonds between gluons and quarks.
Finishing the Standard Model
Round two of the tests at the Large Hadron Collider is also set to finish the Standard Model. The Large Hadron Collider is used by quantum physicists to test theories and predictions in this field of particle physics. The Standard Model concerns the theory behind the strong, weak, gravitational, and electromagnetic forces, to classify known and unknown subatomic particles and surmise their properties. In it, there are elementary particles called fermions, which make up matter, and bosons, which are force-carrying particles. The model is the attempt of discovering and identifying a theory of everything – the reason why and how things have mass.
Ultimately, scientists hope that the underground 17-mile-long particle accelerator will allow them to unearth more information regarding the true nature and properties of dark matter, and whether it originates from the previously discovered Higgs Boson force carrying particle. Dark matter has a pull, rather, a push, on all things that make up the Universe. I cannot be detected due to the fact that it does not emit, absorb, or reflect light. Though, scientists believe it has an influence on the distribution of galaxies throughout the cosmos.
Within the nearly infinitely small quantum world, lies the primordial soup of the Universe. Round two of the tests at the Large Hadron Collider could reveal more information about the building blocks of life. As they look into the past to the very beginning of the Big Bang, scientists could find from whence life in the Universe came.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Jamesdaniel4792 – Creativecommons Flickr License
Photo by Robert Scoble – Creativecommons Flickr License