Large Hadron Collider breaks speed record; now world's 'highest energy particle accelerator'

CERN's Large Hadron Collider on Monday became the world's highest energy particle accelerator, accelerating its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV and breaking a world record held since 2001.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider on Monday became the world's highest energy particle accelerator, accelerating its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 TeV, or more than a trillion electron volts, in the early hours of the morning.

That breaks the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, held since 2001 by the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron collider.

The record is important because the LHC's operators expect to use the machine soon to perform physics by 2010 -- now just a month away.

The LHC was restarted just 10 days ago. The first beams were injected into the LHC on Friday, Nov. 20 and two beams circulated together for the first time on Monday, Nov. 23.

Moving forward, the team plans to increase the beam intensity before "delivering good quantities of collision data to the experiments before Christmas." Only a low intensity pilot beam has been used thus far, and higher intensity is needed to provide useful proton-proton collision rates. After the weeklong phase, the LHC is expected to collide beams for calibration purposes until the end of the year.

"It is fantastic," said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer in a statement. "However, we are continuing to take it step by step, and there is still a lot to do before we start physics in 2010. I'm keeping my champagne on ice until then."

The purpose of the LHC is to address fundamental aspects of physics to understand the most basic of natural laws. The LHC sits in a tunnel approximately 17 miles in circumference, almost 600 feet in the ground beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland.

Interested in keeping up with the LHC's progress? Follow CERN on Twitter.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com