LHC to Run in 2012

By Sean Carroll | January 31, 2011 10:44 am

The Large Hadron Collider is currently (or at least, once it gets off winter break) smashing protons together with an energy of 7 trillion electron volts. The original plan was to work at twice that energy, and the engineers think they can upgrade the machine to achieve it — but only after a year-long shutdown. So, a dilemma: if you upgrade, you have to shutdown and not collect any data for a year; but if you don’t, you’re missing out on all the fun at higher energies. There’s no question that they will eventually shut down and upgrade, the question is only about when it will happen. In particular, would they shut down during 2012, or keep running and shut down in 2013?

The verdict is now in: the LHC will be running at its current energy, 7 TeV, through 2012. Some had speculated that the LHC shutdown would come sooner, now that we know the Tevatron will be shutting down for good — without competition, the thinking went, you might as well turn it off to achieve the higher energies as soon as possible. I’m not an expert, but this decision sounds good to me; let’s get the data we can, think about it, and take the time to do a perfect job at the upgrade.

Higher energies should commence in 2014. By then, let’s hope the theorists are tearing their hair out trying to explain all the data from 2011 and 2012.

  • lloyd

    this is crap, shut it down now and get it up to speed

  • Jan de Wit

    Why is the LHC on winter break anyway? Is it because the scientists can’t get there due to the snow in Switzerland (but there used to that there and Geneva isn’t that high up IIRC) or is there a more ‘sciencey’ reason?

    I imagine that, with an expensive machine like that, you’d want to keep it running 24-7 – compare chip-factories and so on.

  • jack

    Jan: Yes there is a reason the LHC shuts down for winter. It takes too much power from the city of Geneva’s power plant, and that power is need to heat homes. or put another way. The local power plant cannot support both its parent city and the LHC at the same time in the winter.

  • Roberto

    A couple of notes: LHC will run through 2012, and will run at 7 TeV in 2011, this is the statement. Which means that there is still the possibility it will go up a little (8, maybe more) in 2012. Certainly not to 14 TeV, for that the long shutdown is needed. Concerning the winter shutdown, all accelerators work 24/7 but they need long maintenace periods (and the experiments too). At CERN, this is done in winter for reasons of cost/availability of electricity (caused by home heating as Jack wrote). BTW CERN gets most of its power from the French network.


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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