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LHC Smashes Speed Record
Nov 2009
GENEVA, Nov. 30, 2009 – CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) outside Geneva became the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator today, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV in the early hours of the morning. The atom-smashing speed exceeds the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, which had been held by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s Tevatron collider in Batavia, Ill., since 2001.

The achievement marks another important milestone on the road to first physics at the LHC in 2010, when the accelerator is expected to achieve a collision energy of 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam), CERN officials said.

A view of the LHC machine taken on Nov. 20, 2009. (©CERN photograph by Maximilien Brice)

“We are still coming to terms with just how smoothly the LHC commissioning is going,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “It is fantastic. However, we are continuing to take it step by step, and there is still a lot to do before we start physics in 2010. I’m keeping my champagne on ice until then.”

The LHC was restarted 10 days ago, with the first beams injected into the LHC on Nov. 20. Over the following days, the machine’s operators circulated beams around the ring alternately in one direction and then the other at the injection energy of 450 GeV, gradually increasing the beam lifetime to around 10 hours. On Nov. 23, two beams circulated together for the first time, and the four big LHC detectors recorded their first collision data (See LHC: The Beams are Back).

CERN officials said last night’s achievement confirms that the LHC is progressing smoothly toward conducting experiments early in 2010. The world-record energy was first broken yesterday evening, when beam 1 was accelerated from 450 GeV, reaching 1050 GeV (1.05 TeV) at 21:28 on Sunday, Nov. 29. Three hours later, both LHC beams were successfully accelerated to 1.18 TeV.

“I was here 20 years ago when we switched on CERN’s last major particle accelerator, LEP,” said Research and Technology Director Steve Myers. “I thought that was a great machine to operate, but this is something else. What took us days or weeks with LEP, we’re doing in hours with the LHC. So far, it all augurs well for a great research program.”

Next on the schedule is a concentrated commissioning phase aimed at increasing the beam intensity before delivering good quantities of collision data to the experiments before Christmas. So far, all the LHC commissioning work has been carried out with a low-intensity pilot beam. Higher intensity is needed to provide meaningful proton-proton collision rates. The current commissioning phase aims to make sure that these higher intensities can be safely handled and that stable conditions can be guaranteed for the experiments during collisions.

This phase is estimated to take around a week, after which the LHC will be colliding beams for calibration purposes until the end of the year.

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