The Large Hadron Collider Is Going Offline So It Can Become More Powerful

Even the LHC needs a break from time to time.

Behind The Scenes At CERN The World's Largest Particle Physics Laboratory
Getty ImagesDean Mouhtaropoulos

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been temporarily powered down. Its duties of smashing particles together at the speed of light and unleashing exciting new forms of energy are on hold until 2021.

The LHC, housed in Geneva, Switzerland, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), continuously breaks new ground in physics by combining particles at nearly the speed of light, emitting radiant beams of energy, some of which are previously unknown to humankind. Scientist comb through the reams of data looking for previously unknown physics signatures that hopefully increase our understanding of the world and beyond. Recently, it moved beyond its usual wares of proton particles by accelerating lead atoms with a single electron for the first time, birthing a sustained beam of energy for several hours.

The LHC has already been powered down, the CERN announced in a earlier this week, noting that it'll require extensive maintenance upgrades during its two-year reprieve. The idea, scientists said, is to equip the machine's already extensive network of transmitters and detectors with fresh equipment, capable of powering particle accelerations at higher speeds, thus spurring further advancement in the field.

Frédérick Bordry, CERN Director for Accelerators and Technology, noted in the release:

“The second run of the LHC has been impressive, as we could deliver well beyond our objectives and expectations, producing five times more data than during the first run, at the unprecedented energy of 13 TeV. With this second long shutdown starting now, we will prepare the machine for even more collisions at the design energy of 14 TeV.”

The LHC is notorious for its 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson, a previously elusive particle that earned two CERN scientists the Nobel Prize for physics in 2013. Alternatively and somewhat fittingly, the Higgs Boson is nicknamed "the God Particle" owing to its presence in nearly every physical object in our world, although the name is somewhat derided among physicists.

In the meantime, researchers say they're going to be busy combing through the vast trove of data that might indicate previously unknown glimpses of physics unleashed by the LHC during its last two-year stint.

Let's hope there's something good sandwiched in there.

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