Large Hadron Collider smashes another speed record

Big Bang machine scientists say next step is high-speed crash of two proton beams

The world's largest atom smasher has broken yet another record.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said that its Large Hadron Collider this morning accelerated proton beams 3.5 teraelectronvolts (TeV), the top speed ever for an atom smasher machine.

Late last November, the collider, which sits astride the Swiss/French border, set the previous record by accelerating two protons at an energy level of 1.18 TeV.

CERN said that its next major step will be to collide beams that have individually accelerated to the 3.5 TeV level. The research organization hasn't scheduled that test yet.

"Getting the beams to 3.5 TeV is testimony to the soundness of the LHC's overall design, and the improvements we've made since the breakdown in September 2008," said Steve Myers, CERN's director for Accelerators and Technology, in a statement. "And it's a great credit to the patience and dedication of the LHC team."

Shortly after the Large Hadron Collider's first test run in September 2008, scientists running the machine disclosed that a faulty electrical connection had knocked it offline. The team initially thought the collider would remain out of service for six months, but later confirmed to Computerworld that the problems were more extensive.

CERN said the price tag for the repairs was about $21 million. The system was finally back online last November.

The collider, which has been called "one of the great engineering milestones of mankind," was built to explore the Big Bang theory, which holds that more than 13 billion years ago, an amazingly dense object the size of a coin expanded into the universe that we know now.

The Large Hadron Collider, which had been under construction since the late 1980s, shot its first beam of protons around a 17-mile, vacuum-sealed loop in September of 2008, but then quickly ran into trouble.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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