The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, is the largest atom smashing machine in the world, and it’s also the machine responsible for the discovery of several rare particles, including the Higgs Boson in 2012. That particle, known colloquially as the “God particle,” confirmed the Higgs field about five decades after it was first discovered, and was responsible for answering several unanswered questions in the world of physics. And now it can be said that the LHC has reached another milestone in its history.
According to scientists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the LHC broke a new record Wednesday, smashing protons at 13 trillion electronvolts. This beats out the old 8 trillion electronvolts record previously set, and comes very close to the LHC’s maximum capability of 14 trillion. The test collisions conducted earlier in the week are part of a series of tests preparing the LHC for its relaunch, and a new series of experiments set to take place in June.
“It doesn’t sound like very much, but if you have a mosquito buzzing around, the amount of energy it takes to keep that mosquito floating is about the energy of one of these collisions — except that you have this energy compressed down into the size that’s a million times smaller than the width of a human hair,” explained run coordinator Greg Rakness in an interview with Live Science. He also talked about how protons that don’t have the right amount of energy, or “off spec” protons, can potentially hit the LHC’s equipment. This is prevented by collimators, which are large metal blocks that protect the equipment from stray particles.
If the LHC is capable of smashing protons at higher energy levels, this could possibly result in the discovery of unusual particles that have yet to be confirmed. That’s gotten physicists psyched up for the LHC’s relaunch, which may yield findings that may be on the same level as 2012’s Higgs Boson discovery.