CERNIn an experiment conducted in Geneva (April 5), European nuclear research agency CERN smashed two high-power proton beams in a collision that produced energy reaching 8 trillion electro volts (TeV) — the most powerful on record. The achievement marked the beginning of the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) physics data collection for 2012.

“The experience of two good years of running at 3.5 TeV per beam gave us the confidence to increase the energy for this year without any significant risk to the machine”, explained Steve Myers, Director for Accelerators and Technology at CERN. “Now it’s over to the researchers to make the best of the increased discovery potential we’re delivering them!” he added.

During a series of experiments carried out in 2011, collision energy levels reached 7 TeV. Although today’s improvement appears modest to the lay observer, it was an exciting development for physicists focused on the significant potential for new discoveries. In particular, CERN scientists expected that through ensuing experiments they would be able to validate or deny the theory of Higgs particles. If these particles exist, it would also explain the existence of matter.

“The increase in energy is all about maximising the discovery potential of the LHC”, said CERN Research Director, Sergio Bertolucci. “In that respect, 2012 looks set to be a vintage year for particle physics”.

The LHC will continue to collect data until the end of 2012, at which point it will enter a long period of inactivity in preparation for attempts at a new record in 2014.

(Photo © Cern)