The giant atom-smashing machine is currently shut down as technicians and scientists work on its upgrade.
By the end of the year they should be ready to boost its particle energy from eight trillion electrovolts, or teraelectronvolts (TeV) to 14 TeV. This will allow it to perform the highest energy particle collisions ever attempted.
A new series of experiments due to resume early in 2015 could take scientists into an uncharted realm of physics known as “beyond the Standard Model”.
It opens up the possibility of solving the riddle of Dark Matter, finding evidence of a far-reaching cosmic concept known as “supersymmetry”, and even discovering signs of extra hidden dimensions that help explain the mystery of gravity.
Scientists may also uncover more Higgs bosons – different versions of the so-called “God particle”, predicted by Nobel laureate Professor Peter Higgs, that gives other particles mass. The Higgs boson was the last missing piece of the “Standard Model”, a blueprint of interacting forces and elementary particles that has stood in place since the early 1970s.
Now scientists want to go further, beyond the Standard Model, to expand their theories about how the universe works.
Professor Tony Doyle, from the University of Glasgow, a leading member of the team operating the giant Atlas detector at the LHC, said: “The idea now is that with the last missing piece of the Standard Model in place, the search now is for things that go beyond it, primarily supersymmetry.”
Supersymmetry proposes that for every matter particle there is a corresponding force-carrying particle as well. It requires not one but several Higgs bosons, providing new quarry for the LHC.
“The universe being driven by supersymmetry is a really key idea,” said Prof Doyle. “At the moment we separate things that are force carriers and matter particles. Evidence of supersymmetry would change our whole view of what’s happening out there. Each of these particles would basically be the same thing, but one’s force and one’s matter.”
Investigating supersymmetry may ultimately solve the riddle of Dark Matter – the invisible stuff that glues galaxies together with gravity but whose nature is unknown.