Research starts at world’s biggest physics experiment

Scientists aim to make new discoveries about the Universe

Scientists have launched physics research at the world’s largest particle accelerator by successfully achieving proton collisions at 7 trillion electron volts (TeV).

The highest energies ever achieved by a man-made particle accelerator mark the start of a two-year campaign that could see scientists make new discoveries about the Universe and answer some of the unresolved questions in physics.

Particle physicists from the University of Liverpool are involved in ATLAS and LHCb, two of the four major Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments.  The team are now working to analyse the data from the collisions.

ATLAS is a ‘general purpose’ experiment built to search for evidence of the Higgs particle, Super-Symmetry and other new phenomena in the highest collision energies ever studied.  One of the two end-caps on the semi-conductor tracker – at the heart of ATLAS – was assembled entirely at Liverpool.

LHCb is designed to investigate the subtle differences between matter and antimatter in particles containing b (beauty) quarks.  Scientists hope to understand why, if the universe started in a Big Bang – which created equal amounts of matter and antimatter – today, all we can see is matter.

LHCb will look at the properties of particles containing b quarks and anti-b quarks to see where differences arise. To find these particles scientists need to use the high precision of the VELO – a particle detector, within the LHCb experiment, consisting of modules built by scientists, engineers and technical staff at Liverpool.

Dr Tara Shears, physicist at the LHCb, said: “We have built the LHC to try and understand more about the universe around us. It has taken thousands of people many years to construct this complex machine and its experiments, and it’s thrilling to now see collision data. The LHC is taking us on a huge scientific adventure, and although we have a long way to go, we have taken the first steps.”

Once the LHC has completed this long run of 18-24 months, there will be a long shutdown of roughly a year during which the LHC will be upgraded and prepared for running at its design energy of 14 TeV.

Notes to editors:

1.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £93 million annually.

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