CERN rebooted the massive particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) this summer, after a multi-million dollar renovation that gave it twice the energy capacity it had before. (And before it had enough to help scientists identify the elusive Higgs boson.) Scientists are over the moon about the research opportunities the revamped LHC presents, but the doubling of power and higher public profile that came with it also forced CERN into a public relations campaign to reassure skeptics that the work was safe. Now that PR effort will probably also have to double its energy, because CERN has announced it will bring a new partical accelerator online at its Swiss campus.
The LHC is the largest machine ever constructed by man. The new accelerator project is smaller. Called the Advanced Wakefield Experiment (AWAKE), it’s scheduled to be turned on next year. Nature says AWAKE “will accelerate particles by ‘surfing’ them on waves of electric charge created in a plasma, or ionized gas. It is a method that could allow future accelerators to probe matter and the forces of nature at ever-higher energies” without having to build machines as large as the LHC. With electric fields “stronger than those in a conventional collider, the acceleration [in AWAKE-style machines] can be as much as 1,000 times greater over the same distance.”