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article imageLarge Hadron Collider begins restart process

By James Walker     Apr 5, 2015 in Science
The restart of the Large Hadron Collider has begun as particles begin to travel around the 27km tunnel again for the first time since 2013. The LHC has been shut down so that substantial upgrade and maintenance work can be completed.
The particle accelerator is now capable of creating collisions with twice the energy that it previously could. Particle beams will be able to travel in both directions around the circuit and will be contained within parallel tubes in the collider.
Researchers at the facility will be increasing the energy of the proton beams to 13 trillion electronvolts over the coming months. Protons will start completing entire laps of the LHC again within the coming hours but actual collisions are not due to commence until next month.
The increased energy of the beams will be used to create more powerful collisions than ever before. Scientists are hoping to explore unknown areas of physics that cannot currently be described by the Standard Model of 17 subatomic particles.
This will help with understanding things like the abundance of "dark matter" in the universe that has confused researchers for years. The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC in 2012 means that scientists have now discovered everything predicted by the Standard Model.
Professor Tara Shears from the University of Liverpool works on one of the LHC's four main experiments. Speaking to BBC News, she said: "Of course in every particle physics experiment we've ever done, we've been wanting to make a big, unknown discovery. But now it's become particularly pressing, because with Run One and the discovery of the Higgs, we've discovered everything that our existing theory predicts."
By smashing particles into each other at very nearly the speed of light, scientists hope to detect things that cannot be explained by the Standard Model, including dark matter and "dark energy". This is a mysterious force that could account for the indefinite rapid expansion of the universe.
The LHC will now be capable of replicating temperatures that have not been experienced in the universe since the first moments immediately after the Big Bang. Because of this, researchers will be able to take matter into states that haven't been observed before which could help with finding the evasive dark matter.
The restart of the LHC is a notable moment in the physics world. As protons begin to lap the 27km circuit beneath Switzerland's soil again, the possibility of making all-new discoveries about the universe is created.
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