A powerful new magnet that will allow the Large Hadron Collider (LHC),the world’s biggest atom smasher,to study two to three times more proton collisions,has successfully passed its first test.
The magnet will replace the existing ones and could help uncover the mysterious properties of the newly discovered particle,Higgs boson,that is thought to explain how all other particles get their mass.
The new magnet is made of a superconductor called niobium titanium,which,when cooled to near absolute zero,allows large amounts of current to flow without overheating.
Niobium titanium was fine for simply discovering the Higgs boson,but revealing the properties of the Higgs boson requires more collisions than the LHC currently allows,’LiveScience’ reported.
The LHC between Switzerland and France sends two proton beams barrelling at near light-speed around 27 kilometres underground ring until they smash into each other,creating myriad subatomic particles in the process.
The new magnet produces a much larger magnetic field to focus the proton beams into an even more miniscule area,thereby ensuring that more protons crash into each other,’LiveScience’ reported.
Currently,the LHC uses a magnet to focus the proton beams before they smash into each other. The farther the protons deviate off course,the stronger the magnet pulls them toward the center of the beam that’s just a few thousandths of an inch wide.
Though hundreds of billions of protons make up each beam,there are still relatively big empty spaces between them,meaning the odds of a collision are relatively small.
The new magnet and its housing can produce magnetic fields 50 per cent stronger than the LHC’s current magnet.
That extra strength translates to two or three times the number of collisions,said GianLuca Sabbi,an accelerator physicist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory who helped design the new magnet.
Over the next 10 years,researchers plan to revamp the entire system to achieve 10 times as many collisions.
“The magnets are just one element of many changes that are going to be made in the machines,” Sabbi said.