For the first time in two years and after a $150 million repair and maintenance, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will start to smash particles at an unprecedented speed on June 3. Scientists hope that the data they would gather could help unveil the mystery of the dark matter and lead to the discovery of other particles.
Sitting in a tunnel 100 meters underground on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, the LHC is the world's most powerful particle accelerator capable of smashing protons or iron to almost the speed of light. The powerful machine has a 27-kilometer ring of superconducting magnets equipped with accelerating structures to boost the particles' energy.
The overhauled LHC will take data from collissions at 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV), which is nearly twice the collision energy of the underground particle smasher in its first run from 2010 to 2013 that led to the discovery of the Higgs boson, an elementary subatomic particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics also known as the god particle.
"The world's most powerful accelerator is ready to start its physics programme once again, this time with proton beams colliding 13 TeV - almost double the LHC's previous energy," reads the CERN blog. "This new energy frontier will allow researchers to probe new boundaries in our understanding of the fundamental structure of matter."
LHC's second season will follow up on the discovery of the Higgs boson as well as hunt for signs of phenomena beyond the Standard model. Scientists hope that the machine's second run will provide evidence of what is known as "new physics", which include the concept of dark matter, believed to make up about 96 percent of the universe and super-symmetry (SUSY), which proposes that all visible particles have unseen equivalent.
Scientists would be able to detect any dark matter if they notice some energy missing after collision as this betrays the particle's existence. Prior to LHC's shutdown in 2013, many scientists hoped to detect hints of SUSY but no evidence has been found so far. Scientists hope that particles missing from the current knowledge of the universe's building blocks could be detected however fleetingly.
"The only thing we really know is that there is 'new physics,' because the model that we have is not complete," said Luca Malgeri, who works at the European physics research center CERN. "It might be linked to dark matter or it might not. It might be linked to something totally new."