Preparing for the LHC restart

Kevin Burkett

Kevin Burkett, head of the CMS Department, wrote this column.

As we await the return of spring here in Chicago, the Large Hadron Collider is coming back to life at CERN. The LHC accelerator has been in a long shutdown, which began after the completion of Run 1 in February 2013. The shutdown has allowed machine experts to perform repairs, make improvements and thoroughly test the accelerator so that it can operate at a higher energy than before. During the shutdown, members of CMS, including scientists, engineers and technicians from Fermilab, have also been hard at work to improve the detector, fixing problems discovered in the first run (see this Photo of the Day from October) and installing new upgraded components to improve detector performance.

The second run of the LHC will start very soon, with the first beams expected later this month and the first proton-proton collisions coming roughly two months later. In this run the LHC is expected to collide protons at a center-of-mass energy of 13 TeV, significantly higher than the 7 and 8 TeV collisions we recorded in Run 1. This higher collision energy has both experimentalists and theorists excited with the potential for seeing signs of new physics. The more energetic collisions could produce particles that we could not previously observe, allowing us to continue our search for evidence of models such as supersymmetry or extra dimensions.

Run 2 is scheduled to last into 2018, delivering more than four times as much data as we had in Run 1. In addition to looking for evidence of new physics, with this large data sample we’ll be able to make more precise measurements of the properties of known particles, especially the recently discovered Higgs boson.

As we prepare for the start of Run 2, we are still keeping an eye on the future. Many members of the Fermilab staff, collaborating with university colleagues at the LHC Physics Center, are working on the detector upgrades that will keep CMS running well throughout the LHC era. As we heard in the closeout of the recent DOE Institutional Review, “With this Fermilab will continue to play a leading role in the energy frontier for the next two decades.”