The Large Hadron Collider

The LHC is the largest machine in the world. It took thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians decades to plan and build, and it continues to operate at the very boundaries of scientific knowledge.

16 12, 2009
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On 16 December 2009, the LHC ends its first full period of operation. Collisions at 2.36 TeV set a new world record and bring to a close a successful first run for the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC is put into standby mode for a short technical stop to prepare for higher energy collisions and the start of the main research programme. Over the 2009 run, each of the LHC’s four major experiments, ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb have recorded over one million particle collisions, which are distributed for analysis around the world on the LHC computing grid. 

16 02, 2013
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On Saturday 16 February at 8.25am the shift crew in the CERN Control Centre extract the beams from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for the last time before the machine's first Long Shutdown. The following message marks the event on LHC Page 1: "No beam for a while. Access required: Time estimate ~2 years."

January's proton-lead run was followed last week by four days of proton-proton collisions at 1.38 TeV. Final proton collisions in the LHC took place on Thursday at 7.24am, but beams were kept in the machine for 48 hours for "quench tests" on the magnets. A quench is when a superconducting magnet fails to maintain a superconducting state, and therefore stops operating correctly. This can happen if a tiny amount of the beam is off orbit and deposits energy in the magnets. The tests aim to establish what beam loss is actually required to quench the magnets.

The LHC’s first run saw major advances in physics, including the discovery of a new particle that looks increasingly like the long–sought Higgs boson, announced on 4 July 2012. And during the last weeks of the run, the remarkable figure of 100 petabytes of data stored in the CERN mass-storage systems was surpassed. This data volume is roughly equivalent to 700 years of full HD-quality movies.

The LHC now enters its two-year shutdown, which will see a hive of maintenance activity on all of CERN's accelerators. Work on the LHC will include the consolidation of more than 10,000 interconnections between magnets. The entire ventilation system for the 628-metre circumference Proton Synchrotron will be replaced, as will over 100 kilometres of cables on the Super Proton Synchrotron. The LHC is scheduled to resume in 2015.

20 11, 2009
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From a CERN press release, dated 20 November 2009: 

Particle beams are once again circulating in the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This news comes after the machine was handed over for operation on Wednesday morning. A clockwise circulating beam was established at ten o'clock this evening. This is an important milestone on the road towards first physics at the LHC, expected in 2010.

“It’s great to see beam circulating in the LHC again,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “We’ve still got some way to go before physics can begin, but with this milestone we’re well on the way.”

The LHC circulated its first beams on 10 September 2008, but suffered a serious malfunction nine days later. A failure in an electrical connection led to serious damage, and CERN has spent over a year repairing and consolidating the machine to ensure that such an incident cannot happen again.

“The LHC is a far better understood machine than it was a year ago,” said CERN’s Director for Accelerators, Steve Myers. “We’ve learned from our experience, and engineered the technology that allows us to move on. That’s how progress is made.”

Recommissioning the LHC began in the summer, and successive milestones have regularly been passed since then. The LHC reached its operating temperature of 1.9 Kelvin, or about -271 Celsius, on 8 October. Particles were injected on 23 October, but not circulated. A beam was steered through three octants of the machine on 7 November, and circulating beams have now been re-established. The next important milestone will be low-energy collisions, expected in about a week from now. These will give the experimental collaborations their first collision data, enabling important calibration work to be carried out. This is significant, since up to now, all the data they have recorded comes from cosmic rays. Ramping the beams to high energy will follow in preparation for collisions at 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam) next year.

Particle physics is a global endeavour, and CERN has received support from around the world in getting the LHC up and running again.

“It’s been a herculean effort to get to where we are today,” said Myers. “I’d like to thank all those who have taken part, from CERN and from our partner institutions around the world.”

04 07, 2012
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ATLAS spokesperson, Fabiola Gianotti, presents the collaboration's results. (IMAGE: CERN)

On 4 July 2012, as a curtain raiser to the year’s major particle physics conference, ICHEP 2012 in Melbourne, the ATLAS and CMS experiments present their latest preliminary results in the search for the long-sought Higgs particle. Both experiments have observed a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV. 

The next step is to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe. Are its properties as expected for the long-sought Higgs boson, the final missing ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics? Or is it something more exotic? The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which we, and every visible thing in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them. All the matter that we can see, however, appears to be no more than about 4% of the total. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the universe that remains obscure.

Explore the resources prepared for press.

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CDS Media
30 03, 2010
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Martin Aleksa, Lyndon Evans, Fabiola Gianotti and Peter Jenni toast running at 7 TeV in the ATLAS Control Room. (IMAGE: CERN)



ATLAS records collisions at 7 TeV centre-of-mass energy for the first time.

Particle physicists around the world anticipate a rich harvest of new physics as the LHC begins its first long run at an energy three and a half times higher than previously achieved at a particle accelerator.

Explore the resources prepared for press.

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19 09, 2008
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On 19 September 2008, during powering tests of the main dipole circuit in Sector 3-4 of the LHC, a fault occurs in the electrical bus connection in the region between a dipole and a quadrupole, resulting in mechanical damage and release of helium from the magnet cold mass into the tunnel. Proper safety procedures are in force, the safety systems perform as expected, and no-one is put at risk.

More about the incident: 

A full technical analysis of the incident is available here

Or read an analysis of the LHC incident on CERN's press office website

21 10, 2008
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In line with Japanese tradition, this Daruma doll was painted with one eye to mark the start of the LHC project. The Japanese Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology T. Yamauchi adds the second eye to mark the completion of the project. 

05 07, 2002
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Construction workers use a modified cement truck on stilts to reinforce the floor of the ATLAS cavern. 

31 05, 2002
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A digger removes the final sods of earth from the sides of the cavern that will house the ATLAS detector. 

23 07, 2008
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The pixel detector barrel is the last large piece of the CMS detector to be lowered into the cavern.