Fermilab sees little impact from powering down of CERN collider
By Matt Brennan For The Beacon-News January 8, 2013 1:54PM
FILE - In this March 30, 2010 file picture the globe of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, is illuminated outside Geneva, Switzerland. The world's largest and most powerful atom smasher goes into a 2-year hibernation in March 2013 , aiming to reach maximum energy levels that may lead to more stunning discoveries after hunting down the so-called "God particle. But physicists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, won't exactly be idle as the US $10 billion proton collider goes on hiatus for maintenance and retooling _ in preparation for unlocking more mysteries. There are still reams more data to sift through since the July 2012 discovery of a new subatomic particle called a Higgs boson and promises a new realm of understanding in subatomic science. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus,File)
Updated: February 10, 2013 6:11AM
BATAVIA — Because of some detailed planning, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory will not be highly impacted by the two-year, temporary closure of the world’s largest atom smasher near Geneva, Switzerland.
Fermilab has been a long-time research collaborator with the European particle physics laboratory known as CERN, which launched its Large Hadron Collider in 2008.
Patricia McBride, head of Fermilab’s Compact Muon Solenoid Group, said that some of Fermilab’s scientists will come home from Switzerland, as CERN prepares for a two-year scheduled shutdown of its atom smasher beginning in March.
They will maintain a scaled-down presence there, however, she said.
“We’ve known for some time that they were going to do this,” she said.
The Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border will operate for two more months then shut down through 2014, allowing engineers to lay thousands more superconducting cables aimed at bringing the machine up to “full design energy,” James Gillies, chief spokesman for CERN, told The Associated Press.
Once the machine is up to its maximum energy level, more research and discoveries will be possible.
Gillies said engineers over the next two years will install 10,000 redesigned superconducting cables that connect between the magnets. That will vastly improve its capacity to simulate the moments after the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago.
“It will bring you more collisions. Which means that the more collisions you have, the more likely you are to see rare events,” he said. “The Higgs particle was just one of many on the wish list that we’d like to find, so higher energy increases your discovery potential.”
Even though the Large Hadron Collider will be down, scientists will remain busy sifting through data following the July detection of the Higgs boson, which promises a new realm of understanding of the universe.
Once the improved CERN system has run for a few years, Fermilab is looking to make some improvements to its own pixel detector, which allows them to take precise particle measurements during their experiments, McBride said.
“We have to think in terms of decades,” she said. “Some of these things take a long time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.