CERN Sets Date for Record Collision in Large Hadron Collider

CERN readies the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for beam collisions at 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam), marking the start of the organization's physics program.

Less than a week after the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator located outside Geneva operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), successfully circulated two 3.5 TeV proton beams and set a record for the highest energy yet achieved in a particle accelerator, CERN announced the date for the start of the LHC research program. The first attempt for collisions at 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam) is scheduled for March 30. A Webcast will be available on the day of the first attempt to collide protons at 7 TeV, the organization noted.
Between now and March 30, the LHC team will be working with 3.5 TeV beams to commission the beam control systems and the systems that protect the particle detectors from stray particles. CERN's director for accelerators and technology, Steve Myers, said all these systems must be fully commissioned before collisions can begin. "With two beams at 3.5 TeV, we're on the verge of launching the LHC physics program," he said. "But we've still got a lot of work to do before collisions. Just lining the beams up is a challenge in itself: It's a bit like firing needles across the Atlantic and getting them to collide halfway."
Once 7 TeV collisions have been established, the plan is to run continuously for a period of 18-24 months, with a short technical stop at the end of 2010. CERN said this would bring enough data across all the potential discovery areas, including basic laws governing the interactions and forces among the elementary objects, the deep structure of space and time, and especially regarding the intersection of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Over the 2009 part of the run, each of the LHC's four major experiments-ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb-recorded over 1 million particle collisions.
CERN Director General Rolf Heuer warned the LHC is not a "turnkey" machine. "The machine is working well, but we're still very much in a commissioning phase, and we have to recognize that the first attempt to collide is precisely that. It may take hours or even days to get collisions."
The last time CERN switched on a major new research machine, the Large Electron Positron Collider (LEP), in 1989, it took three days from the first attempt to collide to the first recorded collisions. The current LHC run began in November 2009, with the first circulating beam at 0.45 TeV. The organization soon began to speed up acceleration, with twin circulating beams established by the end of November and a world record beam energy of 1.18 TeV being set on Nov. 30.