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Zoe Louise Matthews | ASY-EOS | UK

View Blog | Read Bio

What’s next for the LHC?

So, after 20 years of hard work, the LHC is finally a Large Hadron Collider, officially. The experiments will all get a fair few more of these lovely events before the year is out, to give us a first look at our detectors’ potential. So what comes next, after this momentous threshold has been passed? Of course, the incredible machine is capable of much more powerful things. 900 GeV collisions are relatively puny compared with where it is headed.

Now, there’s the testing challenge of repeating what was done last year – the careful raising of acceleration, the “ramping up” of the supercool magnets, to keep much much faster protons contained in the beam and under control. A lot of work is still to be done before we all go home for Christmas. If things go well, we may have collisions at over a TeV.

The next big step for the LHC will be to collide protons at energies never before seen. This will really make history, and those of us lucky enough to work on the experiments, the simulation, or on the theoretical side, will have the opportunity to analyse and interpret the absolutely brand new. Unseen by the human eye.You can’t get more exciting than that!

As the months go by, the LHC will edge closer and closer to its full potential. The ultimate goal, of course, is 14 TeV collisions. With energy this high, the accelerator will be pushed to its limits to show us an area of the world that challenges our current understanding. Science as we know it will be rewritten with those collisions.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the LHC’s progress will eventually continue, to make the same gradual push into the unknown with collisions of Lead ions. The behavior of matter at trillions of degrees, as far as we can tell so far, is not only incredibly difficult to produce, but highly unusual to say the least. Because our universe began as a small blob of the molten, broken-down soup we call “quark-gluon plasma”, we feel it is our duty as scientists to properly unravel the mysteries of this exciting phase transition. The LHC will take us, for an unfathomably short length of time, much hotter and much closer to the conditions of the early “soupy” universe than ever before. With the ALICE detector’s powerful particle identification, we should be able to make impressive sense of such a brief glimpse at the earliest point in our universe’s history.

The LHC has made history already, but over the coming years, it will help scientists learn so much about our world, and the baffling puzzles in it. The brilliantly powerful “Standard Model” of fundamental particles and forces, as it currently stands, may have some of the few missing puzzle pieces fitted, or perhaps illuminate some ill-placed ones…in any case, we will have a better clue to the whole picture – no matter what it finds, the LHC will change our understanding of the universe forever.

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