London: Large Hadron Collider (LHC), popularly known as the ‘Big Bang Machine’, is all set to start operations aimed for record-breaking high-energy particle experiments today, after an 18-month delay for repairs.
According to a report in The Guardian, operators of the LHC have set today morning as the moment the machine will attempt to steer speeding particles into head-on collisions, creating microscopic bursts of energy that mimic conditions that existed a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.
The start of high-energy operations at the collider marks the end of a frustrating 18-month delay for physicists who saw the machine shut down for essential repair work following an explosion at the laboratory in September 2008, just nine days after it was first switched on.
The 6 billion pounds collider, which occupies a 17-mile (27km) circular tunnel 100m beneath the French-Swiss border, accelerated two counter-rotating beams of protons to an unprecedented energy of 3.5tn electron volts (TeV) last week.
Today, the beams will be crossed for the first time in the highest-energy man-made collisions ever.
The incident that closed the machine was caused by a short circuit that led to a tonne of liquid helium bursting into the collider tunnel.
Repair work and extra protection systems cost the laboratory 24 million pounds.
The machine was designed to collide two 7 TeV beams of protons, but laboratory managers decided in January to operate the machine at half power until the end of 2011.
The machine will then close for a year of further engineering work to ensure it can run at full power in 2013 without breaking down again.
For scientists at CERN and elsewhere, the beginning of high-energy collisions on Tuesday will end a long period of working without any real data.
Until recently, many physicists have had to make do with computer simulations of particle collisions.
“There’s a lot of anticipation here. Everything’s been pent up for a while and everyone’s ready and eager to get some real data,” said David Wardrope, a British physicist at Cern who completed his PhD at the laboratory last year.
“So far, everything is looking good. We can do some real science now,” he added.
The LHC is expected to make new discoveries about the laws of physics at the highest energies and smallest scales ever probed.
Physicists hope these will help them decide which of their theories of nature are right and which should be junked.