After a successful second run of the LHC ended in December 2018, it was closed for upgrades to increase its capacity and capabilities. Now the LHC team has announced a new – already third – launch of the collider, which will begin this spring: perhaps this will happen as early as the end of March. During the shutdown, which was caused, among other things, by the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the CERN team were preparing for new experiments with the collider.
Anticipating new physics discoveries, scientists aim to use the LHC’s improvements to explore the Higgs boson, dark matter, and potentially expand our understanding of the theory that describes all known fundamental forces and elementary particles in the universe.
In the near future, the LHC will return to what it does best – it will accelerate protons and ions to almost the speed of light and push them into each other. These high-energy collisions will allow researchers to make sense of things in their experiments that the Standard Model doesn’t fully explain.
With the new upgrades, CERN has increased the power of the LHC injectors that send beams of accelerated particles into the collider. According to the scientists, during the previous launch in 2018, the collider could accelerate the beams to an energy of 6.5 teraelectronvolts – now this value has been increased to 6.8 teraelectronvolts (one teraelectronvolt is equivalent to 1 trillion electron volts).
To increase the energy of proton beams to such an extreme level, “thousands of superconducting magnets whose fields guide beams along their path must get used to much stronger currents after a long period of inactivity,” CERN said.
With trained magnets and stronger than ever proton beams, the collider will be able to create collisions at higher energies than ever before. This will expand the possibilities of what scientists using upgraded equipment can detect.
Given the upgrades, researchers are considering introducing graphics processing units (GPUs) to be used as efficient computer processors for the collider as they analyze and process an incredible amount of data.
“The ambitious LHC modernization program poses a number of exciting computational challenges; GPUs can play an important role in supporting machine learning approaches to solve many of them,” said Enrica Porcari, Head of IT at CERN.